The IMF does not understand buffer stocks

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Last year a team of ‘IMF experts’ published a report intended to help member countries deal with the economic effects of COVID-19. One of the reports, published on June 29th, concerned ‘food markets during COVID-19’ and came out against using food buffer stocks to stabilize prices. It claimed that they ‘carry a large fiscal cost…   Read more

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Malawi’s food reserve and the IMF

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  Nearly two decades ago, in 2002, several newspapers reported that the IMF had recommended the sale of Malawi’s strategic grain reserve just before the country suffered a catastrophic crop failure during which people died from starvationAccording to The Guardian the IMF representative in Malawi, Girma Begashaw, insisted that no such recommendation had been given.…   Read more

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The UN and food reserves

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In July 2020 the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Michael Fakhri, presented a report to the UN General Assembly in line with a resolution on the Right to Food passed by the UN in 2018. The resolution was looking forward to achieving food security and sustainable agriculture by 2030. However, as with all…   Read more

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Food and the Great Khan

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Marco Polo (1254-1324) was a Venetian merchant who travelled through much of Asia in the late thirteenth century.  As with any tale from history, there are those who are sceptical about the veracity of his stories and even about whether he went to China at all (he doesn’t mention the Great Wall, the sceptics complain).…   Read more

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A global shortage of food?

An article by Emiko Terazono in The Financial Times reported on February 4th that global food prices have reached their highest level in almost seven years. It claims that analysts are starting to get concerned. “It could become a big issue for less prosperous countries which depend on imports for food,” it quotes Abdolreza Abbassian,…   Read more

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No buffers for the Bank?

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The President of the World Bank, David Malpass, published a blog on February 1st about the lack of food security in the world. The blog had previously been an article in The Guardian. One sentence stood out: ‘The time is long overdue to shift to practices that safeguard and increase food and nutrition in ways…   Read more

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Just-in-time or Just-in-case ?

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“Resilience requires buffer and buffer can look wasteful until the moment when it isn’t.“ These words were uttered by Sir Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of the National Health Service, England before the UK parliament’s Health Committee on 26 January 2021. He was referring to vaccines, making the point that a buffer stock of an essential…   Read more

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The current danger of price volatility

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According to the UK’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), grain prices are on the way up in the world. Lack of rain has reduced yields in Argentina. Last month the country temporarily banned maize exports as a result, leading to to a rapid rise in global maize prices. The ban was changed to a…   Read more

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A distinguished pedigree

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In January 1950 R.S. Porter published an article entitled ‘Buffer stocks and economic stability’ in the distinguished journal Oxford Economic Papers. Beginning with the remark that ‘the Chinese are said to have operated an “ever normal granary” system many hundreds of years before the birth of Christ,’ he moves on to the biblical story of…   Read more

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The Fight Against Food Shortages and Surpluses – a summary

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The book begins by identifying the problem, namely the fact that world prices of agricultural commodities are unstable. It is true that international trade helps to moderate this instability, but it cannot do so if there is a world-wide shortage or surplus. There is therefore a question of what other measures might be adopted. The…   Read more

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