Skip to main content

The Economics of Food Price Volatility

There has been an increase in food price instability in recent years, with varied consequences for farmers, market participants, and consumers. Before policy makers can design schemes to reduce food price uncertainty or ameliorate its effects, they must first understand the factors that have contributed to recent price instability. Does it arise primarily from technological or weather-related supply shocks, or from changes in demand like those induced by the growing use of biofuel? Does financial speculation affect food price volatility?

The researchers who contributed to The Economics of Food Price Volatility address these and other questions. They examine the forces driving both recent and historical patterns in food price volatility, as well as the effects of various public policies in affecting this volatility. The chapters include studies of the links between food and energy markets, the impact of biofuel policy on the level and variability of food prices, and the effects of weather-related disruptions in supply. The findings shed light on the way price volatility affects the welfare of farmers, traders, and consumers.


“Although agricultural commodity prices have been unstable throughout history, price volatility increased between 2008 and 2012, a phenomenon that attracted great interest among and study by agricultural economists.  This volume . . . will bring readers up to date with current factors that must be included with econometric models addressing food price volatility. . . . This important work deals with a pressing contemporary matter that will continue to affect every person in the future. . . . Recommended.”


"In the continuing debate about the causes and impact of global food price volatility, what could one rely on as fact and reliable interpretation and what was overblown hype? It was with great interest that I embarked on reading the volume under review—eager to come to grips with what a group of top-notch researchers have to say about the economics of food price volatility. . . . This book is for [those] who wish to dive deep—really deep—into the themes in focus, and work their way through the wide range of underlying technical issues and methods."

Journal of Economic Literature

Table of Contents

Jean-Paul Chavas, David Hummels, and Brian D. Wright
1.         Influences of Agricultural Technology on the Size and Importance of Food Price Variability
Julian M. Alston, Will Martin, and Philip G. Pardey
Comment: James M. MacDonald
2.         Corn Production Shocks in 2012 and Beyond: Implications for Harvest Volatility
Steven T. Berry, Michael J. Roberts, and Wolfram Schlenker
Comment: Derek Headey
3.         Biofuels, Binding Constraints, and Agricultural Commodity Price Volatility
Philip Abbott
Comment: Brian D. Wright
4.         The Evolving Relationships between Agricultural and Energy Commodity Prices: A Shifting-Mean Vector Autoregressive Analysis
Walter Enders and Matthew T. Holt
Comment: Barry K. Goodwin
5.         Bubble Troubles? Rational Storage, Mean Reversion, and Runs in Commodity Prices
Eugenio S. A. Bobenrieth, Juan R. A. Bobenrieth, and Brian D. Wright
Comment: Jock R. Anderson
6.         Bubbles, Food Prices, and Speculation: Evidence from the CFTC’s Daily Large Trader Data Files
Nicole M. Aulerich, Scott H. Irwin, and Philip Garcia
Comment: Aaron Smith
7.         Food Price Volatility and Domestic Stabilization Policies in Developing Countries
Christophe Gouel
Comment: Shenggen Fan
8.         Food Price Spikes, Price Insulation, and Poverty
Kym Anderson, Maros Ivanic, and Will Martin
Comment: Marc F. Bellemare
9.         Trade Insulation as Social Protection
Quy-Toan Do, Andrei A. Levchenko, and Martin Ravallion
Comment: Ron Trostle
Author Index
Subject Index

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press