Was the global food crisis really a crisis?

Was the Global Food Crisis Really a Crisis?

Simulations versus Self-Reporting

Derek D. Headey
ifpri research brief

Have rising food prices hurt the poor, or helped them? So far, all answers to this question are based on simulation analyses by the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). These simulation studies almost invariably suggest that the rise in international food prices in 2007–08 substantially raised the number of poor or hungry people by anywhere from 60 to 160 million people. But given the inherent limitations of simulation-based analysis, it is important to also examine survey-based evidence. This brief reports new findings from a study that uses the only survey-based estimates of global food insecurity trends, based on a self-reported indicator from the Gallup World Poll (GWP). In several respects, the results contradict simulation-based estimates. For example, in a sample representing the majority of the developing world population, self-reported food insecurity decreased during the crisis, not increased. Many large Asian countries were relatively well protected by limited food inflation and strong economic growth. However, similar to many simulation analyses, the self-reported results also show that food insecurity rose in most of Africa and Latin America. Since self-reported indicators also suffer from limitations, it is important to interpret these results carefully. Overall, international institutions must make a greater effort to improve food insecurity measurement, especially when gauging the impact of major economic shocks.