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Responding to Renewed Food Price Inflation

January 7, 2011

In a Reuters news story reporting record high food prices in December 2010, CGIAR food policy experts warn of serious consequences, particularly if countries respond with counterproductive policies, as many have tended to do since the food price crisis of 2008.

“The danger is . . .  you get a second shock as countries respond by imposing export bans and financial market investors pile in for short-term investment, pushing prices much higher,” said Maximo Torero, Director of the Markets, Trade and Institutions Division at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), with headquarters in Washington, D.C. 

In 2008, according to IFPRI, more than a dozen countries banned food exports, further limiting supplies and driving prices higher. Russia imposed export restrictions in 2010 in response to fires and drought.

The most recent round of food price inflation, with the cost of some commodities exceeding the levels reached in 2008, provides a new reminder of the continuing fragility of global food security. It also underlines the need for a strong policy response, including renewed efforts to mobilize agricultural science aimed at boosting sluggish rates of crop productivity growth while enhancing agriculture’s resilience in the face of increasingly erratic weather.

Toward this end, the CGIAR launched two major strategic research initiatives in November of last year – one aimed at bolstering the global rice sector and the other focused on climate change in agriculture. Further programs now being developed are on track to be launched in 2011. Collectively, they represent a determined and comprehensive response to the challenge of securing global food supplies despite climate change and other threats.

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