With all the news of floods in Australia decimating the country’s wheat crop and adverse weather in the US cutting corn and soybean harvests, commodities prices across the globe are again seeing drastic increases, raising fears that we may be witnessing a return of widespread food insecurity and subsequent political and economic turmoil. Moreover, the FAO’s recent statement that global food prices reached a record high in December 2010 has sparked the memory of the crisis in 2007–08 and turned global attention back to the issue of food security.

As global food prices continue to surge, individuals and families in the developing world may be facing a new food reality. Fluctuations in the price of staple commodities may benefit some households’ welfare (producers) while hurting others (consumers). Understanding how price increases affect the developing world on a household level can pose a major challenge to global policymakers as they strive to respond to global and national food crises.

The dramatic surge in food prices in 2007–2008 seriously threatened the world’s poor, who struggle to buy food even under normal circumstances, and led to protests and riots in the developing world. The FAO’s recent statement that global food prices reached a record high in December 2010 has sparked the memory of this crisis and turned global attention back to the issue of food security.

During the 2007-2008 global food crisis, the international price of major agricultural commodities such as wheat, rice, maize, and soybeans more than doubled. As floods in Australia decimate the country’s wheat crop and adverse weather in the US cuts corn and soybean harvests, commodities prices across the globe are again seeing drastic increases. Such price spikes spark the memory of the 2007-08 crisis, raising fears that we may be witnessing a return of widespread food insecurity and subsequent political and economic turmoil.

Commodity production and trade provide the primary livelihoods for millions of households throughout the developing world. The development of this sector is essential to poverty alleviation efforts and overall economic development. However, as witnessed in recent spikes in the price of wheat and soybeans, the commodity sector is challenged by severe price volatility and high marketing costs. Many believe that commodity exchanges provide a way to mitigate these risks and increase economic efficiency in a liberalized market environment.

The global food crisis of 2007–08 was characterized by a sharp spike in the prices of most agricultural commodities, including staple grains. High world prices were transmitted to domestic markets, eroding the purchasing power of urban households and particularly the poor. In dozens of countries, high prices sparked demonstrations and riots. A number of countries, including Argentina, India, Russia, and Vietnam, responded by restricting rice and wheat exports in an attempt to keep domestic prices from rising.

The dramatic surge in food prices in 2007–2008 seriously threatened the world’s poor, who struggle to buy food even under normal circumstances, and led to protests and riots in the developing world. The crisis eventually receded, providing some measure of relief for citizens in the countries that were most affected by the price surge; yet the FAO’s recent statement that global food prices reached a record high in December 2010 has raised the specter of another crisis.

How is a country affected by changes in the global prices of its export and import commodities?
What is the change in short-run prices when a country’s food supply is increased?

Answering such questions can pose a major challenge to global policymakers as they strive to respond to global and national food crises. It is essential that policymakers and researchers have access to the latest food security research and policy tools in order to strengthen national and global capacity to respond effectively to food policy challenges.

In the search for effective and sustainable policies to promote fertilizer use, numerous studies (especially those focused on developing regions) identify several supply-side and demand-side constraints at both the regional and country level that limit the development of input markets, and consequently fertilizer uptake.

Global food prices have a range of effects, both positive and negative, on agricultural markets, food prices, and food security in the developing world. Having access to reliable food price information is critical for policymakers, food policy experts, and researchers to be able to respond quickly to dynamic developments in the global food system.

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