Coping With Climate Change: a Food Policy Approach1

Published date01 March 2014
AuthorC. Peter Timmer
Date01 March 2014
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.18278/wfp.1.1.4
World Food Policy
56
he early drats of Food Policy Analysis were stimulated by the attention to high
food prices following the world food crisis in 1973–74, and the fears of a repeat in
1979–80. But by the fourth f ull drat, in 1982, it became apparent that surplus-
es were returning to world food markets. A volume predicated on a world running
out of food would have been out of date before the ink was dry, and a full-scale re-
vamping of the analytical messages was needed. Ater a nearly complete re-write,
the new theme, which has stood the test of 30 years of market luctuations, was the
need for lexibility to cope with market instability. hat message is even more rel-
evant now, as we learn to cope with a new source of instability—climate change.
Such lexibility is not a natural feature of domestic policymaking, in the food sec-
tor or elsewhere, and providing the analytical tools for understanding how to cre-
ate lexible responses turned out to be a real challenge. he task in this paper is
to ask speciically how climate change would alter the basic message of Food Poli-
cy Analysis. Virtually all of the analysis was focused on national policies and do-
mestic markets, an approach that seems problematical for preventing or mitigat-
ing climate change, but entirely appropriate for designing adaptation strategies.
Climate change is imposing itself as a reality via the increased probability of ex-
treme weather events in general, and also on both global and localized food secu-
rity outcomes in particular. he ecosystem services provided by the climate are es-
sential for all agricultural production. he most important efects of climate change
on agriculture are likely to include a net global loss of agricultural land, changing
crop suitability, an increase in the frequency of natural disasters, and greater tem-
poral and geographic variance in production. It will also have negative efects on
other areas of agriculture broadly interpreted—reducing the carrying capacity of
many rangelands and posing threats to isheries and aquaculture production systems.
Climate change is expected to have highly variable efects on diferent regions; trop-
ical and equatorial regions will bear the heaviest burdens, with some gains in yields
and land availability in temperate regions. Since rural poverty is concentrated in
tropical and, in South Asia, coastal areas, climate change is expected to have a dis-
proportionate efect on the already vulnerable. he challenge is to design, analyze,
and implement in-country “climate-smart agriculture” adaptation projects and pro-
grams, which are now part of the food policy agenda, as well as to improve the open-
ness to trade in agricultural commodities to even out geographical instability. De-
signing appropriate policies for bio-fuels also needs to be on the analytical agenda.
Keywords: climate change, food policy analysis, food price, biofuel and agriculture
Coping With Climate Change: a Food Policy Approach1
C. Peter Timmer2
1 is paper was prepared for the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society (AARES)
meetings in Sydney, February 2013. Some of the observations on Food Policy Analysis appeared in Timmer
(2010b). I would like to thank Marshall Burke, Wally Falcon, Casey Friedman, Joanne Gaskell, David Lobell,
and Roz Naylor for very helpful comments and suggestions. ese colleagues all know far more than I do
about climate change, and I am learning a lot from them. However, I remain responsible for the views and
shortcomings in this essay.
2 omas D. Cabot Professor of Development Studies, emeritus, Harvard University; Non-resident fellow,
Center for Global Development, Washington, DC.
57
Coping With Climate Change: A Food Policy Approach
Introduction
It has been 30 years since Food Pol icy
Analysis (Timmer, Falcon, and Pearson
1983) was published and more than 35
years since the initial outline for the book
was circulated among the authors. It is fair
to say that the volume has been very in-
uential in thinking about food policy is-
sues since its publication, and it remains in
use as a textbook for a number of univer-
sity courses. Its academic success is a bit
surprising because the audience was not
primarily university faculty (for whom it
seemed too simplistic in methodology and
too anecdotal in presentation). Instead, we
targeted the message at practitioners, an
ill-dened group of analysts in need of an
understanding of how a complicated and in-
terconnected food system actually worked.
Training these practitioners has turned
out to be the main mission of the book,
and one that has continuing resonance.
e early dras of Food Policy Anal-
ysis (henceforth FPA) were stimulated by
the attention to high food prices follow-
ing the world food crisis in 1973–74, and
the fears of a repeat in 1979–80. But by the
fourth full dra, in 1982, it became appar-
ent that surpluses were returning to world
food markets. A volume predicated on a
world running out of food would have been
out of date before the ink was dry, and a
full-scale revamping of the analytical mes-
sages was needed. Aer a substantial re-
write, the new theme, which has stood the
test of 30 years of market uctuations, was
the need for exibility to cope with mar-
ket instability. at message is even more
relevant now, as we learn to cop e with a
new source of instability—climate change.
Such exibility is not a natural fea-
ture of domestic policymaking, in the food
sector or elsewhere, and providing the an-
alytical tools for understanding how to
create exible responses both to high and
low price environments turned out to be
a real challenge. But the relevance of the
approach remains to this day, accounting
for the continued usefulness of an analyt-
ical guidebook that is three decades old.
he Basic Message
There was no mistaking the ambitious-
ness of the primary goal of FPA: rap-
id and sustained poverty reduction.
At the time of draing, there was not even
agreement in the development profession
that such a goal was feasible. Paul Streeten
had published First ings First: Meeting
Basic Human Needs in 1982, eloquently
arguing that rapid growth was not possible
and that development strategy needed to
focus on providing basic needs to the poor.
e focus of FPA on more rapid economic
growth and the policies to enhance ecien-
cy that would bring it about were controver-
sial for a volume that took poverty seriously.
But FPA argued that growth was not
enough. ere were four basic food poli-
cy objectives, and all four were important:
1. Faster economic growth (the “eciency”
objective).
2. More equal distribution of income from
that growth (the “welfare” objective).
3. A guaranteed nutritional oor for the
poor (the “safety net” objective).
4. Secure availability and stable prices in
food markets (the “food security” objec-
tive).
3 Although long out of print, the volume remains
available on-line at a Stanford University website:
http://www.stanford.edu/group/FRI/indonesia/doc-
uments/foodpolicy/fronttoc.fm.html.

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT