Was the Global Food Crisis Really a Crisis? - Simulations versus Self-Reporting: IFPRI Discussion Paper 01087

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Derek Headey Development Strategy and Governance Division


Estimates by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the World Bank concerning the welfare impact of the 2007/08 global food crisis conclude that between 75 million and 160 million people were thrown into hunger or poverty. However, these simulation-based approaches suffer from inherent deficiencies as well as insufficient coverage of the largest developing countries, especially China and India. This paper therefore assesses the usefulness of an alternative to simulation-based approaches, self-reported food insecurity data from the Gallup World Poll (GWP), a survey conducted before, during, and after the 2007/08 crisis. While these data are still less than ideal, we show that trends in self-reported food insecurity are statistically explained by both food inflation (positively) and economic growth (negatively). This validation motivates us to employ the GWP data as a barometer for the welfare impacts of the global food crisis. Our findings suggest that while there was tremendous variation in trends across countries, global self-reported food insecurity fell from 2005 to 2008, with the most plausible lower- and upper-bound estimates ranging from 60 million to 250 million fewer food-insecure people over that period. These results are clearly driven by rapid economic growth and very limited food price inflation in the world’s most populous countries, particularly China and India. Hence, self-reported indicators of food insecurity reveal a trend opposite that of simulation-based approaches.

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