News / Africa

Higher Wheat Prices Do Not Signal Another Food Price Crisis


Joe DeCapua

Despite a recent rise in the cost of wheat, food policy analysts are warning not to compare it to the food price crisis of 2007/2008.  The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) says “panic” over higher wheat prices is “baseless and could only hurt the poor.”

Concern has risen in some quarters because drought and wildfires have affected Russia’s wheat harvest.  The government has banned wheat exports into next year.

Maximo Torero, director of IFPRI’s Markets, Trade and Institutions Division, says, “It’s not an advocacy message.  It’s basically the reality.  The problem is there have been a lot of linkages between the 2007/2008 [crisis] with the current crisis.  And the situations are pretty different.”

How different?

“In this case, despite the problems of Russia and the reduction of supply in Russia and the closing of their borders in terms of exports of wheat, there are still sufficient grains available.  And there are also sufficient stocks, around 50 million metric tons more than 2007/2008,” he says.

What’s more, he says, “The prices of the other commodities, which in 2007/2008 were increasing substantially, have not increased at those levels, which mean corn and soybeans.  And also the price of oil is US$ 75 per barrel, which before was one hundred and thirty something.”

Make matters worse for the poor

An IFPRI statement says suggestions that the situation today and that of a few years ago are the same “serve to drive up food prices and hurt poor people, who spend much or most of their incomes on food.  They need neither jittery markets nor ad hoc protectionism, which has exacerbated past food crises.”

Torero says, “Calm down.  Because the problem is, if there is a lot of pressure through media or through news telling that we are in the same crisis as before, what could happen is that some countries could get into a nervous situation.  Internal politics could affect the situation.”

That could result in those countries following Russia’s example and imposing an export ban on wheat.  “And then, of course, that could create a problem,” he says.

IFPRI also points out that bad weather, which it calls a perennial wildcard in agriculture and commodity markets, has not affected all producers.

“In some countries, like in Russia, we had a problem.  But in others, we’re having a bumper harvest, like in the case of the U.S.,” he says.  Australia and Canada are also having good wheat harvests.

“So, we don’t see weather affecting all at the same time,” Torero says.  And while Pakistan has been hit by floods, the harvest had already been collected and stored.  “What has been lost on one side can be compensated (for) on the other side.”


Mozambique recently experienced riots following a sharp rise in food prices.  But Torero says it’s “another example of how things get distorted.”

He adds, “What happened in Mozambique basically was a response of the government increasing control prices – prices that were fixed by the government, not fixed by the market – in a significant amount.”

The government action affected the price of such things as electricity, water and bread.

“It had nothing to do with what happened… at the global level.  The reasoning behind [the price hikes] is there was a significant devaluation with respect to the currency in South Africa, from the metical [Mozambican currency] to the rand, which was huge,” he says.

The devaluation of the metical hit the country hard because Mozambique imports much of its goods from South Africa.  Nevertheless, many assumed the situation stemmed from higher wheat prices.

“It was completely linked to the food crisis and those kinds of things don’t make, honestly, too much sense,” he says.

You May Like

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

Survivor: Gunman Spared 'Lucky One' to Give Police Message

Law enforcement official says a manifesto of several pages was recovered; contents not revealed More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs