Causes and effects of high food prices to be discussed on Oct. 10

Record-high farm commodity prices, like oil prices, have begun to fall in recent weeks, but prices of several commodities remain at double or more than double their levels of two years ago. To show the bigger picture surrounding food prices, a symposium will be hosted by the University of California Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics and the UC Agricultural Issues Center on Oct. 10.

The symposium, “Causes and Consequences of the Food Price Crisis,” will be held Friday, Oct. 10, from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Bancroft Hotel at 268 Bancroft Way in Berkeley.

Agricultural economists will summarize results of research on the current food price crisis currently under way at the Agricultural and Resource Economics departments at UC Berkeley and UC Davis.

“The likely causes of the increase in food prices include the jump in oil prices, the increase in biofuels demand supported by government policies, government attempts to manipulate imports and exports, increased demand caused by rising income in developing countries, slower growth in agricultural productivity, and the weak U.S. dollar,” said Larry Karp, chair of the UC Berkeley Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

“Statistical analysis of historical data, simulations showing how policies affect market equilibrium, and models of food demand behavior when stocks are low, all help us understand the current situation and outlook for the future.”

The researchers also examined the relationship between the slowing pace of agricultural research and development and the recent imbalance between productivity and demand growth.

In addition to causes of high commodity prices, symposium presenters will discuss the consequences. Higher prices benefit farmers and land owners and harm consumers.

California and U.S. farm incomes and land prices reached new records in 2007, and are even higher in 2008. In poor countries, the sudden and extreme jump in prices has caused severe hardship and hunger for the most vulnerable populations, who devote much of their income to food.

Since many small farmers are net food buyers, many farm households have suffered from high prices. The long-lasting adverse consequences include physical and mental stunting from malnutrition and reduced schooling for children.

For more information about the symposium and to register, please visit Registration is free.

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