SQUEEZED – Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility

That’s the title of a new research report from Oxfam and the Institute for Development Studies. It chronicles the effects, five years on, of increased food prices and food price volatility upon poor people in low and middle income countries with ‘severe’ and ‘moderate levels’ of undernourishment in10 countries – from Burkina Faso to Bangladesh, Guatemala to Vietnam.

As well as affecting what and how much people eat, increasing and more volatile food prices are affecting social relation with drops in time for social care as more family members are forced to work to compensate for rising food prices and inflation. They are leading people to leave farming as well as undermining social relations such as people’s ability to mark life events such as births, marriages and death with food sharing, their willingness and ability to cooperate, and maintain informal systems of social protection.

With future food price spike likely, the report calls for preparation to deal with them now. With dozens of researchers in 10 countries involved – the other six are Bolivia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan and Zambia – they paint a nuanced and harrowing picture of the reality of the deep social, cultural as well as physiological and psychological impact of what are too often treated as macro statistics.


Credit:Irina Werning Copyright: Oxfam/Irina Werning

Dodo Khan Jamali (28) in his shop in Bahwalpur village, Sindh province

“The price I get from things from the market are more but I sell them for more so I get a profit. My customers are struggling, there is a lot of poverty here. Almost all the items have gone up and I see people buying less, customers can afford to buy smaller amounts.”

“Prices are more now, I buy a kilo of onions in the market for 50 rupees and sell them for 55 but last year they were 18 rupees for a kilo.”

“The price of potatoes is not very different, they are cheap – even at the highest price they are 20 rupees a kilo. But oil is different, people that used to buy a kilo now half or a quarter. Often the customer just buys what they need for just one meal for 10 rupees.”


About geofftansey

I curate the Food Systems Academy, a free, on-line, open education resource to transform our food systems. I am also a member of the Food Ethics Council and chaired the Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty, which reported in 2015.
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