Written Paper

The world food situation: new driving forces and required actions  [2008]

J. von Braun

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The world food situation is being rapidly redefined, as income growth, climate change, high energy prices, globalisation, and urbanisation transform food consumption, production, and markets. This paper provides an overview of the the key forces driving these changes, and considers what policy responses are required to address the challenges ahead.<br /><br />The report outlines the key factors that are reshaping the world food situation, which include:<br /> demand driven by high economic growth and population change, especially in India and China world food production and stock developments, including a decline in world cereal stocks globalisation and trade developments, such as the stalling of the Doha Round changes in the corporate food system, particularly the increasing leverage of food retailers biofuel production, which adversely affects the poor through price-level and price-volatility effects.<br />The paper describes how all of the above changes on the supply and demand side of the world food equation have led to imbalances and drastic price changes - including a sharp increase in food prices. It descirbes how these changes in food availability, rising commodity prices, and new producer-consumer linkages have crucial implications for the livelihoods of poor and food-insecure people.<br /><br />Key points include:<br /> many small farmers are unable to take advantage of the new income-generating opportunities presented by high-value product
s (meat, milk, vegetables, fruits, flowers), due to high barriers to market entry. Improved capacity is needed to address safety and quality standards as well as the large scales required by food processors and retailers<br /> poor households that are net sellers of food benefit from higher prices, but households that are net buyers, the vast majority of the poor, lose<br /> a number of countries, including in Africa, have made good progress in reducing hunger and child malnutrition, but many of the poorest and hungry are still being left behind<br /> higher food prices will cause the poor to shift to even less-balanced diets<br />The author warns that business as usual could mean increased misery, especially for the world's poorest populations. He concludes by advocating five immediate policy actions to avoid damage and fosters positive responses is required:<br /><br /> developed countries should facilitate flexible responses to drastic price changes by eliminating trade barriers and programs that set aside agriculture resources, except in well-defined conservation areas<br /> developing countries should rapidly increase investment in rural infrastructure and market institutions in order to reduce agricultural-input access constraints<br /> investment in agricultural science and technology by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and national research systems could play a key role in facilitating a stronger global production response to the rise in prices<br /> the acute risks facing the poor, reduced food availability and limited access to income-generating opportunities, require expanded social-protection measures. Productive social safety nets should be tailored to country circumstances and should focus on early childhood nutrition<br /> placing agricultural and food issues onto the national and international climate-change policy agendas is critical for ensuring an efficient and pro-poor response to the emerging risks.<br />