Author Archives: John

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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The Cornhusker State

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As its name suggests, agriculture is a critical component of the economy of the US state of Nebraska. According to a study by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, it accounts for nearly 34% of business sales, 22% of the gross state product and nearly a quarter of the state’s jobs. In a recent report the university…   Read more

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Using market forces is not disrupting them

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Our plan for managing buffer stocks sees them as being a price stabilisation measure. Price volatility is reduced by releasing grain when prices are too high in order to boost supply, and then buying it to replenish stocks when prices are too low. There can be some argument over the acceptable price range within which…   Read more

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Woolly thinking

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When trying to stabilise farm and food prices, it is important to get the price band right. It should not be too high or too low, too narrow or too wide. We have argued consistently that a system of buffer stocks, replenished when prices are low and released when prices are high, can help to…   Read more

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The myth of crowding out

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Anyone who knows the rules for priority seats on a bus is aware of the argument that by taking a seat you deny one to someone else. It is not therefore surprising that one of the arguments against buffer stocks organised by a government is that they ‘crowd out’ private stocks. Do they? There is…   Read more

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How the World Bank misquoted ActionAid on buffer stocks

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ActionAid was founded as an international NGO in 1972, working to reduce poverty and promote human rights. Its headquarters are in Johannesburg, South Africa and under one of its main areas of concern, ‘land and climate’, it has produced a number of reports related to food security. After severe food shortages at the end of…   Read more

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Slovenia’s grain reserves

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Though many people understand how buffer stocks can reduce price volatility, they sometimes worry about how even a good system might be manipulated by interest groups. It’s all very well, they say, to release reserves when prices are high and replenish them when they are low, but who is to define ‘high’ and ‘low’? The…   Read more

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