by Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Economic & Political Weekly, 20 Mar 2010.
The global food price spikes of 2008 should not have come as a surprise. There were a number of long-term trends that were working towards the surge in food prices, which was finally occasioned by some proximate causes. While global prices have eased since then – though not in India – there are lessons to be drawn from the 2008 crisis. There is a need to increase food production without raising prices to consumers. This calls for significant public support for food production. Yet, the poverty and much more limited fiscal capacity of developing countries as well as the liberalised agricultural trade regulations over recent decades constrain them from being more supportive of food security efforts. In addition, international public support has fallen off since the 1980s as agro-business corporate interests increasingly influence public policy, trade regulations and access to technology.