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.

Strategic grain reserves—also called emergency food reserves or food security reserves—have received considerable attention following the global food crisis of 2007–08. Various models for holding reserves have been discussed at such high-level forums as the G-8 Summit and have been studied by the New Economic Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) and other regional economic organizations. By early 2009, countries that already had such programs scaled up their existing reserves, while countries that had dismantled such policies began a discussion about re-instituting them.

Nutrition has been gaining momentum as an important issue in high-level global development debates. Dr. David Nabarro of the UN High Level Task Force on the Food Security Crisis recently shared his views on how human nutrition is being prioritized, addressed, resourced, and assessed by different groups of stakeholders at global, regional, and national levels. At the 20th Annual Martin J. Forman Memorial Lecture, held on November 4 at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington DC, Dr.

Apparent similarities between today’s rising wheat prices and the food-price crisis of 2007-2008 are just that: apparent, not real. Suggestions to the contrary serve to drive up prices and hurt poor people, who spend much or most of their incomes on food. They need neither jittery markets nor ad hoc protectionism, which has exacerbated past food crises.

Recent events in Russia, one of the largest suppliers of wheat in the world, have raised concern about the current and future price of wheat and wheat-based products. This article briefly examines the issue and determines if there is in fact cause for serious alarm.

Summary of Facts