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.

Global food security is constantly impacted by many issues at the local, national, regional, and international levels - politics, agricultural market changes, fuel prices, weather conditions, war, speculation and trading, and many more. Keeping track of all of these developing issues is an overwhelming, but crucial, task for policymakers to appropriately address the needs of the world's food insecure populations.

Source: © Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank (Flickr)

The landscape of global food security and agricultural development is a dynamic one, responding minute by minute to changes in local, regional, and global markets, weather and climate, and political will. Keeping up-to-date with food security developments requires information and analysis from a variety of sources. The Food Security Portal, facilitated by IFPRI, provides one-stop access to the latest food security data, research, and news.

Global policymakers were faced with a stark reality when food prices rose for the eighth consecutive month in February. In addition to affecting global markets, such increases can have complex and widely varied impacts on agricultural markets at the country level. A new policy analysis tool from the Food Security Portal can help to estimate and analyze these domestic impacts.

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 World Bank has released its Food Price Watch for February, citing estimates that suggest an additional 44 million people may have fallen into poverty in low- and middle-income
countries due to the rise in food prices since June 2010. The overall global rise in food prices has been driven by increases in the prices of wheat, maize, sugar, and fats and oils. (Track the rise in global commodities prices and futures prices with agricultural commodities tools )

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.

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