The WPR Archives: The World Food Crisis

The global crisis arising from skyrocketing food prices is suddenly all over the front pages. On Sunday, for example, the Washington Post began a series on the issue. And this morning comes news that the U.N. is establishing a task force with the goal of raising $755 million in additional funds for the World Food Program.

WPR has been tracking this issue for several months, so given the current attention to it in the mainstream press, we thought we would highlight three commentary pieces from our archives that examine various aspects of rising food prices.

First, back in December, the Hoover Institution’s Henry Miller was one of the first commentators to call attention to the negative consequences of ethanol production for world food supply — now widely recognized as one cause of worldwide food price inflation.

In February, John Liebhardt examined whether West Africa could weather the storm of rising food prices. Liebhardt’s piece is worth reading not only because West Africa is in many ways ground zero for the crisis, but also because he examines the economic history that led to this region’s inability to produce enough food to feed it’s people.

Finally, in a piece published in WPR last week, Michelle Sieff also looked at the economics of African food production. Sieff is particularly critical of African governments for the role their policies have played in creating the conditions for food shortages on that continent. Drawing on the work of Ghanaian economist George Ayittey, Sieff says the development policies of African governments since independence have neglected agriculture in favor of an emphasis on industrial development.