Food price volatility is a major challenge facing the global agricultural system today, most vividly illustrated during the global food crisis of 2007–9 when prices spiked for key staple commodities such as wheat, rice, maize, and soybeans. Given the variety of reactions by countries experiencing food price shocks, the crisis offered an excellent natural experiment for generating knowledge on responses to price volatility in particular, and on the political economy of agricultural policy-making more generally.
In 2010, United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) along with collaborating partners—Cornell University and the University of Copenhagen—enthusiastically welcomed Per Pinstrup-Andersen’s proposal to direct a broad-ranging research project on fourteen low- and middle-income countries to uncover which political economy factors, ranging from the constellation of different interest groups to the nature of political institutions, explain variations in policy responses across countries.
The in-depth academic research is valuable for at least three target audiences. First, it informs international organizations and donors about which types of policy interventions can mitigate price volatility and whether this is feasible given a country’s political economy context. Second, it helps policy makers to better understand the trade-offs of certain policy interventions. Third, it generates knowledge about the agricultural policy-making process in developing countries, which remains incredibly scarce despite the importance of agriculture to these countries’ economies.
This book is the distilled essence of the large, multi-disciplined academic project condensed into a compact form for the reader to enjoy and absorb the policy implications.
I hereby express my sincere appreciation and admiration of the academic skills of Per Pinstrup-Andersen, along with his three senior advisors, Philip Abbott, William Lyakurwa, and Robert Paarlberg, and fellow coordinator Danielle Resnick, formerly of UNU-WIDER, for directing the project, building a top-notch research team, upholding highest-quality academic standards on all fronts, and finally gathering the research to a rich harvest.
(p.vi) UNU-WIDER gratefully acknowledges the financial contributions to its research programme from the governments of Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. This publication is supported by an agreement with Cornell University Division of Nutritional Sciences under Subagreement No. 60891-9461.
Helsinki, February 2014