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International Food Prices actually Higher than for Most of Modern History: Why don’t more people know?

Real food prices graph 

Webinar with Dr Alastair Smith

The presentation provides a critical interrogation of contemporary knowledge about international food prices, elaborating on a recently accepted contribution to the journal Nature.

The United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) methodology for the construction of its Food Price Index (FFPI) focuses on “nominal” price changes and trends. Using such data indeed produces the conclusion that while prices grew 20% in 2021, they remain below their peak in 2012. This is the dominant discourse in global media and institutional foresight, and likely defines political and institutional decision making. The reporting of nominal prices has a logic, but also limitations. Where we are rightly concerned with “food security”, it is more relevant to focus on inflation adjusted, or “real” food prices. The FAO’s “real” food price index, shows a steady decline from the 1960s to the year 2000. However, after the turn of the millennium “real prices began to rise. Exacerbated by the COVID pandemic, the real average price of food is currently the highest it has been for the entirety of modern history, apart from during the oil crisis of the 1970s. It is important to update the received approach to evaluating international food prices. Such moves can provoke intensified action to reduce risks of growing food inaccessibility. Such practical action would boost diminishing confidence in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal of “No Hunger” and arrest currently worsening global nutritional standards.

Wednesday 2nd February 2022 - 16:30 - 17:30, MS Teams.

Alastair Smith is a Senior Teaching Fellow in the Division of Global Sustainable Development, University of Warwick. He is a transdisciplinary academic, specialising in Education for GSD, as well as subject focuses such as food security. He is widely published in academic and media sources, including a contribution to The Conversation on the topic of this webinar.

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