Author Archives: John

A story from three generations ago

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Most people in the UK and many outside it have heard of Harold Wilson, who was Prime Minister from 1964 to 1970 and then again from 1974 to 1976. Though (inevitably) a controversial figure, he is often regarded as one of the most successful Labour Prime Ministers of the post-war era. In 1947, during an…   Read more

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Buffer stocks – the UN’s blind spot?

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Last year saw the publication of the 5th UN Global Report on Food Crises. It was described in the preface by the UN Secretary-General as making ‘grim reading.’ The report talks about various new initiatives – the food systems summit which met in September 2021, the ongoing 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other programmes.…   Read more

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Farmers and the happiness index

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There is an interesting paper published in January of this year (2022) entitled ‘Buffer Stock Operations and Well-Being: The Case of Smallholder Farmers in Ghana’ which appeared in the Journal of Happiness Studies. The study was done by the University of Accra in Ghana and the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and was led…   Read more

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Food reserves and geopolitical events

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The Russian invasion of Ukraine shows that geopolitical events are able to have an effect on food supplies that is as devastating as bad harvests and that can appear with even greater suddenness. The outcome of the invasion is not yet clear, and the impact on food supplies is even less clear. But no one…   Read more

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From Farm to Fork in a Time of Crisis

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The latest ‘Food for Europe’ podcast from the European Union, broadcast at the end of 2021, contains some interesting reflections on the impact of the pandemic on food supplies and what is being done to strengthen the EU’s defences against food shortages in the future. Everybody interviewed in the podcast made perfect sense in what…   Read more

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The IATP and Food Reserves

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In 1986, farmers from around the world gathered in Geneva to discuss a deepening farm crisis that was forcing many of them off the land and devastating rural communities. The meeting showed that despite their differences many of the obstacles facing farmers in the U.S. were the same as those facing farmers in Europe, Asia…   Read more

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Food for thought – the oil crisis

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With energy prices rising for a number of reasons throughout the EU, the European Commission has outlined a set of measures that would allow EU member states to keep fuel and electricity prices low. Among them is the development of an energy storage capacity, the EU’s equivalent of food buffer stocks in the energy field.…   Read more

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Negative Evidence

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Reporting to a group of experts who provide advice to the European Union on agricultural markets, Professor Christopher Gilbert of Trento University in Italy pointed out that ‘the academic literature is largely negative in relation to buffer stocks.’ This is perfectly true. But this is not in itself an argument. And unless the academic literature…   Read more

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Food Reserves and Oil Reserves

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Back in the 1950s, when the European Economic Community decided to have a Common Agricultural Policy, people had vivid memories of food shortages during the Second World War. Two things were very clear. One was that without self-sufficiency in food the six original member states might find themselves economically insecure, relying on imports, the price…   Read more

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IFPRI’s proposal for a global food reserve

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In 2008 the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington, under its director general Joachim von Braun, produced a paper to deal with high food prices. It was a period of unprecedented spikes in some food prices, with widespread social disturbances that followed in many countries of the world. There was a general sense…   Read more

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