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High world food prices

The latest global food price spike which peaked in mid 2008 put the issue of staple food price volatility and its impacts on impoverished people’s ability to access reliably adequate food in the spotlight—particularly given the vast majority of poor people, including subsistence farmers, are net buyers of food.

How do events like this impact on the livelihoods of vulnerable groups in developing countries? What actions should or should not be taken by governments in developed and developing nations in response?

Our research looks at short, medium, and long-term drivers of the crisis, as well as how it was transmitted from world markets to poor households, at the coping strategies adopted by individuals, the policy responses of governments, and the mitigating actions taken by civil society, humanitarian groups, and international agencies. We welcome engagement with other organisations working in this area.

Key publications to look for over the next several months include a synthesis study of impacts on the vulnerable, a study on transmission of international prices to the domestic level, a study on effectiveness of responses taken by individuals, governments, international agencies, and civil society groups in the wake of the crisis, and a look back at the underlying causes.  


The aim of this programme will be to:

  • Improve understanding of the causes, consequences, and remedial policy options of the sharp rise in world food prices seen since 2007;
  • Contribute to public policy debates concerning the rise in food prices; and to,
  • Provide evidence and analysis to assist DFID’s Food Team, Policy Division, as well as other parts of DFID including country offices.

Activities and proposed programme of work

The objectives will be met by three sets of activities: a planned programme of studies; additional studies that respond to the needs of DFID as and when they arise; and communications and dissemination.


Julia Compton, Marcella Vigneri, Rachel Slater, Sharada Keats, Stephanie Levy, Stephen Devereux

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