Food price crises and health

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d2474 (Published 26 April 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d2474
  1. Joachim von Braun, professor
  1. 1Centre for Development Research (ZEF Bonn), University of Bonn, Bonn 53113, Germany
  1. jvonbraun{at}uni-bonn.de

Policies on trade, grain reserves, and biofuel subsidies all need to change

The world’s poor are experiencing the second drastic increase in food prices in four years. This time it will probably have an even worse effect on health and nutrition, because the first price shock in 2008 combined with the global economic recession undermined the meagre asset base of the poor and gave them no time to rebuild it. Narrowly conceptualised economic assessments of the “costs” of food price crises underestimate the true burden, which includes their impact on health.

The most relevant price for poor people is that of grain—wheat, maize, and rice in particular. On the international markets, maize prices increased by 105% and wheat by 102% between March 2010 and March 2011. There is little international trade in rice, and its price has increased less than that of wheat. Such increases mean that in many developing countries a kilogram of wheat costs about $0.30 (£0.18; €0.21) instead of $0.15—a crucial difference for people living on …

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