|Home > Contemporary Food Policy Challenges and Opportunities: A Political Economy Perspective|
The global food system and related government policies are in disarray. In response to increasing food prices and greater food price volatility, national governments are pursuing a variety of policies to protect population groups of greatest importance for maintaining government legitimacy. Some of these policies are further amplifying price fluctuations while others are attempting to prohibit price signals from reaching consumers, traders and producers. Extreme weather events, irrational expectations by speculators, sensationalism by the news media, oil price fluctuations and the pursuit of self-interests by international organizations, NGOs and the private sector, have created a sense of uncertainty and heightened political risks among many governments. Together with the so-called “food riots,” which were driven by grievances of various kinds including but not limited to food price fluctuations, these perceived political risks have pushed governments of many developing country governments towards crisis management, short-term political interventions and bandage solutions. This paper discusses these interventions and suggests a set of policy challenges of a longer-term nature as well as related policies to achieve sustainable food security for all in the foreseeable future. The paper will argue that food price volatility will continue to be with us, but that real food prices need not increase. It will further show that the main bottlenecks in expanding food production in most low-income developing countries are found outside the farm and that government intervention in the food system should focus on improvements in rural infrastructure, domestic markets and policies to facilitate efficiency and effectiveness in post-harvest value chains and input sectors. Full costing of environmental damage caused by the food system is suggested to be implemented to help assure sustainability.