Coffee beans, Honduras. Photo: Oxfam

Squeezed: Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility

Year 1 Results

Published: 22 May 2013
Author: 
Naomi Hossain, Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies; Richard King, Policy Research Adviser, Oxfam; Alexandra Kelbert, Research Assistant, Institute of Development Studies

Half a decade after the price spike of 2007-2008, food price volatility has become the new norm: people have come to expect food prices to rapidly rise and fall, though nobody knows by how much or when. So what does the accumulation of food price rises mean for well-being and development in developing countries? And what can be done to improve life in a time of food price volatility?

'Squeezed' provides some preliminary answers to these big development questions, based on the first year results of a four-year project conducted across 10 countries with different levels of exposure to price rises. While high and rising food prices no longer come as a surprise, rapid price changes and the cumulative effects of five years’ worth of price rises are still squeezing those on low incomes.

In areas of life neglected by policy ― especially domestic care work and informal social safety nets — Squeezed provides reasons to prepare for the next food price spike and provides recommendations for how best to do so, including:

  • widening social assistance for the most vulnerable;
  • being ready with temporary spike-proofing measures;
  • monitoring the real impacts on people’s lives and wellbeing;
  • rethinking social protection policy to ‘crowd-in’ care and informal social assistance; and 
  • enabling people to participate in policies to tackle food price volatility.

Researcher and report author Naomi Hossain highlights the report's key findings and their implications in this short video:

 

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