The Minister of Finance of an African country needs to reallocate the country’s public investment to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of halving the proportion of the poor and hungry by 2015: Should the minister increase investment in health and education, with the view that a future productive labor force can lift itself out of poverty? Or shift a greater share of the public budget to support agricultural productivity directly, as the vast majority of the poor relies on agriculture as their main livelihood?

For many poor rural farmers, getting their products to market is one of the most daunting obstacles they face. Markets in developing countries often have weak integration, characterized by a lack of communication and information-sharing; thus, while markets in one region may offer higher prices for a commodity, farmers in other regions have no way of learning about, and taking advantage of, these price differences.

FAO has released the latest global Food Price Index, citing a 1% increase in food prices in February. Despite this increase, the Food Price Index for February remains 10% below its peak in February 2011.

AGRODEP (African Growth and Development Policy Modeling Consortium) has now launched its third round of membership application. Qualified economists from Africa are eligible; membership provides free access to cutting-edge economic research tools, resources, and training that may otherwise be unavailable to researchers in the region.

A Policy Dialogue on Food Security Information Needs in Kenya, co-organized by IFPRI and KIPPRA, was held in Nairobi, Kenya in March of 2011. To revisit some of the more pressing issues to have emerged from this Policy Dialogue, IFPRI and KIPPRA call for the development of two papers. (For access to the Policy Dialogue proceedings report, please contact Jenna Ferguson at


The two paper topics highlight main discussion points from the Policy Dialogue:

In recent days, the price for soft wheat has increased, as has its volatility. This increase in volatility has likely stemmed from reports that cold weather in Europe may damage crops, a fear that may in fact have been overstated. Reports from Russia about a potential new levy on wheat exports starting in April 2012 may have also played a part in this week's increased volatility.

Asymmetry of information is a major obstacle to increasing global food security. Having access to reliable food price and market information is critical for policymakers, food policy experts, and researchers to be able to respond quickly to dynamic developments in the global food system.

The price of agricultural commodities is determined by many different variables, including production quantities, currency rates, weather events, political or social turmoil, and the price of inputs needed to produce those commodities. Throughout the world, fertilizers are a major agricultural input, and thus a major factor in the price of agricultural commodities.

With the price of basic food items on the rise, global policymakers are again faced with the need to protect the world’s most vulnerable populations. Women and young children tend to be most negatively impacted by sharp increases in the price of food. However, while extensive research has been conducted on the causes and consequences of the 2007-08 food price crisis, little of that research has focused specifically on the impact of the crisis on women, and whether the impact differs for women compared to men.

The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change has released a report for policymakers titled "Achieving Food Security in the Face of Climate Change." According to the report, global food security is constrained by three factors: the quantity of food that can be produced in a given climate; the quantity of food needed by a growing global population; and the effect of food production on the climate. Operating within this "safe space" will ensure food security in the coming years.