Policy ForumGLOBAL FOOD SUPPLY

Mixed Messages on Prices and Food Security

Science  27 Jan 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6067, pp. 405-406
DOI: 10.1126/science.1210806

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Summary

Spikes in food prices have pushed food security to the top of the global policy agenda. Price increases have mixed effects on poverty and hunger: They increase the cost of food for consumers but increase incomes of farmers, who represent the bulk of the world's poor. Net effects will differ depending on whether poor households or countries buy or import, or sell or export food (infrastructure, institutions, and market imperfections will play roles, as well) (14). Policies to influence prices imply winners and losers, not just between rich and poor, but also among the poor. These nuances are too often absent in public debate, to the detriment of policy-making. Moreover, the arguments put forward today, that high food prices generally hurt the poor, are in contrast with those put forward a few years ago, that low food prices were hurting the poor.