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Food and finance

Agriculture has always been at the mercy of financial market activity. Financial practices have exacerbated the volatility endemic in agriculture. Rather than dissipating risks, instead they have served to magnify them.

Market goods - IFPRI

Since the food crisis in 2008, the effects of commodity speculation on food price volatility has been in the spotlight like never before. Food price hikes affect us all, but they are felt most acutely by the world’s poorest. What can be done to stabilise food prices in the face of threats from unfettered markets, climate change and population growth? 

There’s little consensus between financiers, governments and civil society about how to provide good food at a reasonable price into the future. But many food policy analysts and NGOS are sounding the alarm at the all too easy and influential inference that global food policy should try to limit food demand and boost supply. They say that a techno-fix isn’t the only answer, and boosting supply won’t curb financial speculation on food commodities.

It’s not just food on which the market speculates; it’s the very land upon which that food is produced. This can have life or death consequences for people whose rights to land are not protected by national governments. ‘Land grabs’ are fuelling food insecurity across Asia and Africa. Closer to home, small family farmers find access to finance very difficult, with banks and other lenders finding industrial scale farms a surer financial bet.

The Food Ethics Council has examined the issues of food and finance both in terms of commodity speculation and access to credit.

Read more about the effects of comodity speculation on food prices in this edition of Food Ethics magazine 

The food crisis: scarcity or injustice?


And in this edition of Food Ethics we assess the relationship between financial market practices and agriculture. 

Food and finance trading security


This discussion paper by Chris Sutton for the Food Ethics Council looks at the likely effects of speculation on food commodities, and asks whether the risks are so high that the practice should be curbed.

Food prices: The ethics of speculation

Our magazine on land rights and farm finance also deals with the sometimes fraught relationship between financiers and agriculture. 

Land: values, rights and reforms