Copenhagen Consensus Paper Suggests Investments for Improving Food Security

April 29, 2012

If you had $75 billion for worthwhile causes, where should you start? That is the question the Copenhagen Consensus project posed to researchers worldwide. John HoddinottMark Rosegrant and Maximo Torrero answered, by building on the project’s 2008 findings that micronutrient interventions are the most effective low-cost investments to combat hunger. To increase food security they argue policymakers should continue to prioritize micronutrient interventions. They also recommend bundling nutrition interventions, increasing global food production, and improving market functioning for the rural poor.

Their research finds that adopting these policies could lead to a significant reduction of hunger. Bundling nutrition interventions, at a cost of about $100 per child could reduce chronic malnutrition by 36 percent in developing countries. Increasing global food production would make food more affordable to the poor and serve as a form of social protection against the negative effects of climate change. This would require an increase in the current annual global public investment to agricultural research and development by $8 to $13 billion. By 2050 the number of hungry people in the world could be reduced by 210 million by spending an additional $8 billion annually.

Given that approximately 80 percent of the hungry in the world live in rural areas this population would benefit from improved market functioning through cellphone accessible market information and reduced barriers to fertilizer access. The authors find that there is up to an 8.35 return for every dollar spent on a subscription to text message of crop market information. In addition, farmers in developing countries are increasingly dependent on imported fertilizer. The fertilizer industry is currently highly concentrated among four tops firms limiting competitive pricing. In order to increase fertilizer affordability for poor farmers the authors encourage policymakers to invest public funds towards the construction of new production capacity. This would encourage local fertilizer production and offset the high start-up costs of building fertilizer plants.