Sunday, April 19, 2009

Recession and foodgrain prices

Over the past year, global foodgrain prices have had a yo-yo run, touching a peak and then declining dramatically as the economy spiralled into a recession. Expressed in US dollars per metric tonne, the prices of rice fell from its May 2008 peak by 59%; maize fell 43% from its June 2008 peak; soybean fell 77% from its July 2008 peak; wheat fell from its February 2008 peak by 53%; and oil prices have also declined by about 65% from July 2008 peak. But when compared with their historical averages, global grain prices today remain way above their ten year averages - rice by 49%, maize by 43%, soybean by 36% and wheat by 31%.

Pedro Conceição and Ronald U. Mendoza argue in a Vox article that despite the decline in global foodgrain prices, domestic food prices in many developing countries have remained "sticky". And falling household incomes due to the economic slowdown has magnified the impact of the high prices. It also finds that many of the supply constraints that contributed to the high prices - biofuel policies, low global stocks, thin trading in foodgrains, and lack of investments in agriculture - continue to remain unresolved, and ready to erupt anytime.

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