Yes, as I have noted many times, food is getting a lot cheaper. But the other downsides to the current economic mess are likely to overwhelm any short term benefits for the hungry in the world’s poor parts, according to an analysis by Joachim von Braun of the International Food Policy Research Institute, published in Thursday’s Nature (sub. req.):
An International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) model, developed by division director Mark Rosegrant, explores what might happen in the face of the recession. If global economic annual growth falls by 2–3 percentage points below recent years’ figure of about 5%, and agricultural investment declines in parallel by 20% — a realistic scenario — this would result in cereal prices 30% above what is expected without a recession by 2020. Globally, 16 million more children would be malnourished.
That’s a lot of hungry kids. Von Braun argues for R&D investment to help plug the holes:
Doubling all agricultural R&D in developing countries between 2008 and 2013, from US$5 billion to $10 billion, could increase agricultural growth by 1.1 percentage points a year, and lift about 282 million people out of poverty by 2020. Although this would mark a historic turnaround in such investment, it pales in comparison to the financial bailout costs.