The International Grains Council has released its grains market report for September 22, 2011. World grain markets saw a retreat in September, a reverse from their strong positions in July and August. As global supply did not change radically, this change in the market is due primarily to financial developments such as the renewal of a strong US dollar.

Download the full report.

A Commentary by Maximo Torero

Thailand’s rice exporters are warning that the country’s 2012 rice exports could drop by as much as 30-40 percent as the result of a proposed government policy that would guarantee fixed prices for both plain white rice and jasmine rice. The Pheu Thai Party, which was elected into power in July, has promised farmers fixed prices of 15,000 baht ($US 500) per ton for plain white rice and 20,000 baht (US$ 667) per ton for jasmine rice.

With an estimated 44 million people falling into poverty since June 2010, rising food prices and increasing agricultural price volatility is at the forefront of global attention. Commodity exchanges have long been touted as a way to mitigate the effects of price volatility and increase economic efficiency in a liberalized market environment. As with other aspects of global agricultural markets, however, exchange markets are facing increasing global interdependence as traders draw on information generated both domestically and internationally.

The economic, political, social, and nutritional impacts of food price volatility and price spikes are clear. In the 2007-08 food price crisis, 33 countries saw violent riots and social unrest as a result of rising food prices; in 2011, increasing food prices have been at least partially blamed for political turnover in Tunisia and Egypt, as well as riots in several other countries.

Successful global agricultural trade hinges on open, secure agricultural markets. Such markets provide risk management by allowing for inter-regional diversification of crops and food products and by reducing price differences through market integration. In other words, secure, well-functioning markets can balance one country’s food deficit with another’s surplus, and vice versa. In this way, global trade can support global price stability and food security.

The daily global news continues to be inundated with stories of rising food prices, and accompanying rises in poverty and hunger. Recent droughts in China have been added to the list of factors driving food prices, specifically commodity prices, up around the world. Policymakers are now faced with decisions regarding the appropriate response to these increases.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), funded by USAID, has released its latest monthly price watch detailing staple food prices for February 2011. These reports provide food security updates for 25 countries vulnerable to food insecurity, focusing on impacts on livelihoods and markets. These updates can help policymakers recognize and mitigate potential threats to food security.

Download the latest reports below. For more information regarding FEWS NET, please visit www.fews.net.

The World Bank this week issued a statement saying that increasing food prices have driven an estimated 44 million people into poverty in low- and middle-income countries since June 2010. This staggering increase in global poverty levels has serious economic, social, and political implications. Many experts and media outlets worldwide have linked rising food prices to riots in Algeria, the ousting of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, and the recent riots in Egypt which led to the historic resignation of President Hosni Mubarak.

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.

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