How do we know if and when a food price spike will become a full-fledged crisis? How do we prepare for such situations? The Food Price Crisis Observatory is an interactive information platform for policymakers, civil society and global organizations, the private sector and anyone else interested in identifying multi-country food crises as they unfold, tracking where and why food riots take place, and monitoring country-specific policies that can mitigate food price crises. Its four modules provide an integrated approach to covering global food price trends and national vulnerabilities to food insecurity, as well as domestic policies and riot episodes in countries across the globe.
The biannual Food Price Watch report follows food price trends both at the global and national levels. The report draws attention to the largest quarterly and annual price variations and emphasizes the reasons behind those price movements.
Read More »
The Crisis Monitor looks at countries' vulnerability to food price crises and their capacity to react to areas of concern, based on food price trends and macro-economic variables. It identifies where the potential national and regional food insecurity "hot spots" are; and whether a country or a region is reaching a critical threshold of food insecurity.
Go to the Crisis Monitor »
The Food Riot Radar tracks food riots across the world using interactive maps and media coverage and spots social unrest episodes related to food price instability. Type 1 riots are mainly motivated by food inflation, while type 2 riots are mostly motivated by severe food shortages.
Go to the Food Riot Radar »
The Policy Monitor focuses on the policies countries can use to prevent, mitigate and cope with food price hikes. The module is organized according to 17 policy instruments that target specific actors. It tracks the implementation of and changes to policies worldwide that are relevant to food price crises.
Go to the Policy Monitor »
The interactive and integrated features of the Observatory will enable users of all backgrounds to effectively monitor food price trends, their consequences, and related interventions. The framework also provides relevant inputs to institutions like the World Bank Group and others participating in fora such as the UN High Level Task on Global Food Security and the Agricultural Market Information System that can aid in the early detection of food price crises in the most vulnerable countries.
The Food Price Crisis Observatory will not and should not be used by the World Bank Group or its partners to declare global or national food crises. There are existing international venues and engagements for such declarations to be collectively made and this tool should never be used to justify unilateral declarations.
FOOD PRICE WATCH
The biannual Food Price Watch report highlights trends in domestic food prices in low- and middle-income countries, and outlines the policy implications of food price fluctuations. One key question emerges from the report: When do these large price fluctuations imply that we are entering full-fledged food price crises? The Food Price Watch works hand-in-hand with the other three modules of the Food Price Crisis Observatory to provide an integrated approach to crisis monitoring.
As of the September 2014 issue, Food Price Watch will be published biannually instead of quarterly. You can stay up-to-date on food price trends, policies, riots, and other issues by visiting the Food Price Crisis Observatory, following us on Twitter @wbpoverty, or contacting any member of our team (see contact information to the right.)
Are global food prices high enough to set off crisis alarms? What price threshold should one use to address this question? Cuesta, Htenas and Tiwari 2014 compare a number of indicators, triggers and thresholds associated with the World Bank’s Food Price Index. Based on that analysis, our preferred trigger to see when a crisis is likely to unfold is when prices exceed an abnormally high* level (or threshold) that is defined over the historical mean of the Bank’s Food Price Index. We choose the historical mean for the period 1960 and 2006 – before global prices started to increase sharply—but you can choose any other historical period of reference.
This stage of the framework aggregates country specific information on food price trends and macroeconomic vulnerabilities to determine if there are multiple countries in a crisis situation within the same region or subregion. You can choose the region of analysis and the period of time. Regions and subregions considered here include: East, West and Southern Africa; East Asia and the Pacific; South Asia; Latin America and the Caribbean; East Europe and Central Asia; and Middle East and Northern Africa, although the number of countries differ by region.
This module reports price trends for the main staple of a given country—defined in terms of domestic consumption—and its key macroeconomic indicators. It provides a snapshot of a given country, focusing on where staple prices stand with respect to an abnormal increase and on macroeconomic vulnerability thresholds. We use a number of triggers to define vulnerabilities: at least a 15% total increase over the previous 5 months (or other you choose); debt over GDP exceeding 60%; a fiscal deficit over GDP in excess of 3%; a current account deficit in excess of 3%; and/or foreign exchange reserves worth less than three months of imports. You can select multiple countries, staple food items, and the time period in the country-specific module.
When do food prices threaten domestic levels of food security? This module looks into the exposure of each country to shocks or circumstances that affect domestic food prices and the capacity of countries to manage the consequences of such food price increases. A country is considered vulnerable when its food prices exceed an abnormal threshold over a given period of time and the country has at least one macroeconomic vulnerability that jeopardizes its ability to respond to food price increases.
Looking at food prices alone, the analysis by Cuesta, Htenas and Tiwari 2014 recommends the use of a staple total price increase of 15% over the previous 5 months as trigger. That is, if the price of the staple food commodity for any country increased by over 15% over the 5 month period leading up to it, then the trigger would be activated for that country. In this tab, you can select the level of price increases and the time horizon.
Dozens of violent episodes during the food price hikes in 2007 shocked the world, and many similar events since then have made worldwide headlines and underscored the close relationship between food insecurity and conflict. As a result, there is increasing interest on how and the extent to which food price shocks are responsible for the origination and/or continuation of conflict and political instability. Beyond food prices, more structural pressures associated with food insecurity, such as competition for natural resources, may also cause political instability and unrest.
This interactive map displays the incidence of food riot episodes in each country worldwide since the global food crisis in 2007. Two types of riots are distinguished: Type 1 riots are mainly motivated by food inflation, while type 2 riots are mostly motivated by severe shortages.
In order to monitor food price crises, it is critical to understand how they interact with policies. Commodity-related policy changes can reinforce food price crises, while food price shocks may prompt drastic policy reforms. Numerous “panic policies” have sparked food price hikes, while the avoidance of these policies can often avert food price escalation.
Policy makers at national and international levels need access to reliable and transparent information on commodity-related policy developments in order to effectively respond to unfolding food price crises. This interactive map outlines commodity-related policy changes initiated in each country worldwide since the Global Food Crisis in 2007.
No matter what food prices are at the moment, food insecurity continues to be a challenge around the world, and its effects on the most vulnerable cannot be ignored. This tool adds to a robust global body of work to monitor food-related crises around the globe, and provides an integrative look at the issue, rather than just focusing on one aspect. We hope to add to the global knowledge on this critical issue and to continue to work with partners to better monitor food price crises as they unfold, deal with the consequences of crises, and ultimately help to prevent them from happening in the first place.
Now is the ideal time to launch this tool, given recent declines in global food prices and relative stability in domestic food prices. Instead of reacting to food price crises when they arise, and struggling to pull together the information needed to help countries cope, this tool takes a proactive approach to monitoring, so that in the event of a food price crisis, critical knowledge will be at the fingertips of relevant policymakers, citizens, and international bodies.
How do the four modules of the Food Price Crisis Observatory work together?
The Food Price Watch draws attention on the largest quarterly and annual food price variations and emphasizes the reasons behind those price movements. One key question emerges from the report: When do these large price fluctuations imply that we are entering full-fledged food price crises?
The Crisis Monitor specifically aims to answer the question posed by the Food Price Watch. Based on food price trends and macro-economic variables, it monitors countries' vulnerability to food price crises and their capacity to react to areas of concern. This module leads to two concrete questions: 1. How close are countries to a food price crisis? And 2. What means can countries use to prevent, mitigate and cope with the next one?
The Food Riot Radar tackles the first question and spots social unrest episodes related to food price instability. Two types of food riots are distinguished: Type 1 riots are mainly motivated by food inflation, while type 2 riots are mostly motivated by severe shortages.
The Policy Monitoraddresses the second question; focusing on the policies used to prevent, mitigate and cope with food price hikes. The module is organized systematically according to 17 policy instruments that target specific actors. It tracks the implementation of and changes to policies worldwide that are relevant to food price crises.
The modules all feed into the Food Price Watch, and in turn work together to provide an integrated approach to crisis monitoring.
I’m not a technical expert- can I use this tool?
Absolutely! It is meant for everyone from very technical experts to university students to citizens in countries around the world who have an interest in the topic. Feel free to contact us if you are researching this topic—we’d be happy to hear your ideas.
I published a paper on this very topic. Could you feature it?
We are always open to learning more and featuring partners’ work in the Food Price Crisis Observatory. Send an email to any member of our team (see the right-hand column) and we’ll be happy to take a look and hear your ideas.
It looks like my country is entering a food price crisis, according to the Food Price Crisis Observatory—should I take this as an official declaration?
No. The Food Price Crisis Observatory will not and should not be used by the World Bank Group or its partners to declare global or national food crises. There are existing international venues and engagements for such declarations to be collectively made and this tool should never be used to justify unilateral declarations.
I’m a member of the media and writing a story on food-related violence—can I interview someone on the team?
Of course! Please contact our Communications Lead, Maura Leary, through the email address on the right-hand column of this page and she will be happy to work with you to get you what you need.
How often do you publish Food Price Watch?
As of the September 2014 issue, the report will be published twice a year, rather than quarterly. You can, however, keep up with food prices, policies, and riot episodes here in the Food Price Crisis Observatory, which will be updated in between issues of Food Price Watch.
I’ve seen similar tools out there—what is different about the Food Price Crisis Observatory?
There are indeed a number of very useful tools out there that focus on different aspects of food price crisis monitoring. The Food Price Crisis Observatory, rather than focusing on one piece of the puzzle, provides a holistic view of the issue and uses its four complementary components to create an integrated approach to crisis monitoring. It simultaneously tracks food prices, monitors crises at the global, national, and country level, keeps track of food-related violence when it occurs, and identifies policies that countries have or have not undertaken to mitigate, cope with, and/or prevent food price crises. Our aim with this tool is not to replace any existing tools, but rather to complement them and add to the global knowledge base on this issue.