Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 08/2012

Global food security index 2012

July 2012

Economist Intelligence Unit


Global food prices rose twice as fast as inflation in the last decade, impoverishing millions at a time when poverty relief captured the world’s attention. Huge price swings for wheat, maize, soybeans and rice—staple crops for much of the world—made matters worse, disrupting markets and harming both producers and consumers. The food riots that swept more than two dozen countries in 2008 and 2011 were the most visible effect of these trends, but they also point to a deeper and more lasting concern: chronic food insecurity. The world, on balance, is richer and better fed than it was 50 years ago, but those gains are under threat. The global population is growing, and is expected to reach 9bn by 2050. Consumers in emerging markets are wealthier, and are spending more of their income on meats and processed foods—driving up demand and straining supplies. High prices for oil and other agricultural inputs are making production more expensive. Extreme weather increasingly threatens harvests, and agricultural productivity gains are waning as investment falters. Competing demands for crops adds to the pressure. All of this suggests that high prices—and price volatility—will threaten global food security for at least the next decade.