Reducing Food Price Volatility

International Consultation Highlights Need for Better Data, Information
February 7, 2013

While food price volatility has decreased since 2010, price spikes and unpredictable markets remain a significant threat to global food security. The uncertainty that stems from price volatility can cut into farmers’ profits and discourage long-term planning and investment, decreasing agricultural productivity. In turn, smaller harvests and lower food stocks can lead to further price increases and decreased availability of food, particularly for already vulnerable populations. But what is behind price volatility, and what can be done to control it?

Last week, food policy experts from around the globe met to discuss this much-debated issue. Organized by the Center for Development Research (ZEF) and International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and held at ZEF in Bonn, Germany, the workshop focused on five major issues related to food price volatility:

  1. Global overview of price volatility, market structure, and food security
  2. Financialization, speculation, and market linkages
  3. Storage, trade, and price stabilization
  4. Market integration of developing countries in global commodity markets
  5. Impacts of price volatility on poor peoples’ food and nutrition security and on production.

An overarching theme throughout the workshop was the need for better, more accessible information about food prices, agricultural production, and global food stocks. While recent research has resulted in new ways to measure and track price volatility (see the Excessive Food Price Variability Early Warning System based on work by IFPRI researchers Maximo Torero and Carlos Martins-Filho), further work is needed to ensure global policymakers have the right tools and information to reduce the impact of food price volatility on the world's poor. Specifically, workshop participants stressed the need for an appropriate global alert system that would link price volatility to food and nutrition security.

Learn more about the workshop and view expert presentations.