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Food Price Volatility


Resources for Researchers is a database intended as a source for researchers, policymakers, students, and the public to become better informed of major recent analysis on global food security. Included are different perspectives provided through a range of academic journals, government research, think tanks, popular press and opinion pieces, and scholarly reviews. This information has been collected from open sources and includes works that have been produced within the last decade. We have noted gated articles. We will regularly update the database as new works are published. We continue to add other topics. This is a collaborative project. If you think we’ve missed a major piece of work, please let us know.

Food Price Volatility

Food price volatility is the variation in agricultural prices over time. There are multiple causes of food price volatility including the supply and demand of crops, drought and other adverse weather conditions, and financial speculation. While not all fluctuations are problematic, price spikes and rapid declines can cause issues for food security, living standards, and the overall economy. Instability in food prices has the most dramatic effects on developing countries. When producers have little ability to anticipate or adapt to food price spikes, short-term and long-term planning becomes difficult, causing the mismanagement of production.

Explore the different topics and categories below:

What is Food Price Volatility?

Food Price Volatility and Security

Effects of Food Price Volatility

What is Food Price Volatility?

Making Sense of Food Price Volatility

Homi Kharas; Brooking Institute; March 2011

This brief gives an overview of the causes and effects of food price volatility, as well as noting that volatility is the cause of market hardships, rather than consistently high prices.

What Explains the Rise in Food Price volatility?

Shaun K. Roache; International Monetary Fund (IMF); May 2010

In order to examine the causes of food price variability, this study separates volatility into low frequency, the price variability that persists for more than one harvest period, and high frequency, which tends to be seasonal.

Has food price volatility risen?

Christopher Gilbert and C. Wyn Morgan; 2010

Gilbert and Morgan assert that food price volatility falls within normal historical levels. Periods of volatility are short lived and occur over “longer periods of market tranquility.”

Food Price Volatility in Africa

Nicholas Minot; International Food Policy Research Institute; 2012

This paper analyzes volatility trends and finds that there is no evidence that food price volatility has increased in staple grain markets in Africa. The authors do conclude that there is evidence that since 2007, international grain markets have become more volatile.

Placing the 2006/08 Commodity Price Boom Into Perspective

John Baffes and Tassos Haniotis; World Bank; 2010

The authors analyze the contributing factors to the price spike that occurred in 2007 and conclude that biofuels played less of a role than previous studies indicated, while commodity investments were more important. The results show that long-term volatility overwhelms price trends.

Climate change may create price volatility in the corn market, say researchers from Stanford and Purdue

Rob Jordan; University of Stanford News; April 2012

This article discusses a study that found climate change to have the most significant effect on corn food price volatility. Climate change had a larger impact than either biofuel production or oil prices. The study appeared in the journal Nature Climate Change and is gated.

Food Price Volatility and Security

Food Prices and Political Instability

Rabah Arezki and Markus Brückner; International Monetary Fund; 2011

This study finds that increases in international food prices lead to a decline in democratic institutions in low-income countries and an increased risk of intra-state conflict.

Food Price Volatility and Insecurity

Toni Johnson; Council on Foreign Relations; 2013

This article provides an overview of the causes of food price volatility. Agriculture markets have historically been less susceptible to price volatility; however, global food markets are becoming more vulnerable.

Why Food Price Volatility Doesn’t Matter

Christopher Barrett and Marc Bellemare; Foreign Affairs; 2011

Barrett and Bellemare conclude that while high food prices are correlated with high volatility, it is the historically high food prices that are causing human suffering and political instability.

Food Price Volatility over the Last Decade in Niger and Malawi

Giovanni Andrea Cornia, Laura Deotti and Maria Sassi; UN Development Programme; 2012

This paper analyzes the extent and sources of food price volatility in Niger and Malawi and its impact on child malnutrition.

Safeguarding Food Security in Volatile Global Markets

FAO; 2011

This book provides key points in the food price volatility discussion, including new policy responses and international commodity agreements.

Effects of Food Price Volatility and Policy Recommendations

Global food prices expected to remain volatile in coming years, warns UN official

UN News Centre; October 2013

FAO director, Silva, discussed the need to use the current conditions to prepare for future unease in the market, as well as to find policy solutions for food price volatility.

Global Food Price Volatility and Spikes: An Overview of Costs, Causes, and Solutions

Joachim von Braun and Getaw Tadesse; Center for Development Research (ZEF); 2012

This paper illustrates the factors behind food price volatility and their effects on poverty and income inequality. It also establishes the differentiation between trends, volatility, and spikes.

World Bank Warns Against Complacency Amid High Food Prices and Hunger

World Bank; November 2012

This article reemphasizes the importance of investing in long-term nutrition programs, safety nets, and sustainable agriculture in order to respond to increasing and volatile food prices.

Responding to Higher and More Volatile World Food Prices

World Bank; May 2012

This report identifies the driving factors of food price volatility and suggests policy recommendations to the changes in the commodity market.

Price Volatility in Food and Agricultural Markets: Policy Responses

FAO, IFAD, IMF, OECD, UNCTAD, WFP, the World Bank, the WTO, IFPRI and the UN HLTF; 2011

This report, compiled by numerous international organizations, describes the impacts of volatility and provides the G20 leaders with options to promote price stability in the global food market.

G20 Action Plan on Food Price Volatility

Meeting of G20 Agriculture Ministers; June 2011

This report establishes a plan of action for increasing productivity and transparency in the global commodity markets as a means to mitigating the effects of food price volatility.

France wants more regulation of food commodity prices

BBC News; June 2011

During a G20 meeting, Sarkozy advocated for more restriction on speculation of commodity prices in order to limit volatility.

Seven Steps to Prevent Recurring Food Crises

Shenggen Fan; Jakarta Post; April 2011

The author poses comprehensive action for governments to take in order to mitigate the effects of biofuel production, oil prices, and tariffs have on commodity price volatility.

Recent trends in world food commodity prices: costs and benefits

FAO; 2011

This brief describes key concepts concerning food price volatility and provides an overview of contributions to price volatility.

Higher and volatile food prices and poor rural people

International Fund for Agricultural Development; 2011

This article connects food price volatility and its impacts on impoverished people and food security. It also examines the causes of the increase in food price volatility, while advocating policy options to mitigate the effects.

International Grain Reserves

World Bank; August 2009

In order to combat price volatility and mitigate the effects of price shocks, governments have increased their stock of grains. The storage of grains has a direct impact on the available supply, which in turns alters prices.

Food Price Volatility: How to help smallholder farmers manage risk and uncertainty

International Fund for Agricultural Development Governing council, Round Table Discussion; February 2009

This document explores policy options to decrease the impact of food price volatility on smallholder farms.