Will Food Prices Drive Instability?

Part of the 2012 Global Forecast

Over the past five years the world has faced serious volatility in food prices and supplies, which has sparked instability around the world. Some contend that events leading to the 2011 Arab Spring were in part triggered by food insecurity and pervasive hunger among the populations of Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and Syria. In 2013, will we continue to see challenges to national governance and security arising from food-related instability?

After reaching historic highs in 2011, food prices have stabilized and are even expected to slightly drop in the coming year as farmers in the largest producing countries respond by ramping up production. But uncertainty will persist, especially from unexpected weather events and disasters. Particularly in weak states—with poor governance, infrastructure, and a lack of capacity to respond—droughts, flooding, and other humanitarian emergencies will exacerbate latent food security issues. Although food insecurity will not necessarily be the direct cause of conflict, it could play a significant role in sparking violence and unrest.

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