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SEI brief

Reducing vulnerability to food price shocks in a changing climate

Climate change exacerbates global food price volatility risks, but this is seldom recognized in national adaptation plans. This discussion brief examines the nature of this risk and offers ideas for how import-dependent countries might begin to address it.

Magnus Benzie / Published on 16 January 2015

Benzie, M., and A. John (2015). Reducing vulnerability to food price shocks in a changing climate. SEI Discussion Brief.

Many countries are highly dependent on food imports. It is important to recognize this as a form of climate vulnerability, as climate change impacts in producing countries are likely to exacerbate global food price shocks.

Pursuing self-sufficiency – the approach of Senegal, our case study, and many other countries – may not be a viable solution, as climate change impacts may also affect domestic food production. In this sense, access to trade can be a source of adaptive capacity.

Risk diversification can help countries reduce their food systems’ vulnerability to climate change. Relevant strategies include balancing food imports – particularly of staples such as cereals – with domestic production, and maintaining a diverse array of domestically grown crops to provide alternative food sources in the event of a staple crop failure.

Adaptation strategies that make sense for individual countries, such as restricting exports during food crises, may exacerbate risks at the global level. It is thus essential to increase research and policy dialogue on how trade policies can help build climate resilience, with an emphasis on food security in vulnerable, import-dependent countries.

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SEI author

Profile picture of Magnus Benzie
Magnus Benzie

Senior Research Fellow

SEI Oxford

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