In June 2008, global food prices reached their highest levels in 30 years, sparking a global crisis and threatening the livelihoods of many in the Commonwealth Caribbean and Haiti. From April to August 2008, this intense crisis prompted various policy responses by governments and international agencies in the region to ensure short-term food security and availability of food supplies at more affordable domestic prices. Food-importing countries generally reduced or suspended their import restrictions while others limited their exports to avoid food shortages and higher domestic prices. Immediate responses concentrated on short-term measures applied to mitigate the impacts of higher prices on vulnerable groups and households, including price controls, social programs, subsidized food sales or food distribution. Since the crisis, however, co-ordinated regional efforts have focused on longer-term strategies resulting in a Regional Food and Nutrition Security Policy. This policy brief reviews policy responses to the 2007-2008 food price crisis in Commonwealth Caribbean countries and Haiti, as these countries are highly vulnerable to such crises in light of their extreme dependence on food imports coupled with high poverty rates. This policy brief assesses the impact of the crisis, the region’s responses and provides lessons for looming food price shocks to come.
- The need for both Haiti and Commonwealth Caribbean countries to design and implement regional and country-specific food policies that will help manage the impact of future food price shocks is not adequately analyzed.
- The region needs to better monitor and share information on food price changes, policy measures and results across the region.
- The need to protect consumers from higher food prices must be balanced against maintaining supply incentives for producers. Policy measures need to be targeted, non-distortionary and positive toward agricultural investments.
- The promising 2010 Caribbean Community Regional Food and Nutrition Security Policy commits the region to secure higher food production, better health and nutrition, income and employment opportunities, and poverty alleviation.