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The effect of food-price movements on African households - An investigation of food production and consumption patterns in four African countries

Authors David Bryngelsson
Anders Åhlén
Christian Azar
U. Martin Persson
Publication year 2009
Published at Gothenburg Centre for Globalization and Development (GCGD)
Department of Economics
Language en
Keywords Food-prices, poverty, vulnerability indicator, Sub-Sarahan Africa, household survey
Subject categories Agricultural Science, Other Agricultural Sciences not elsewhere specified, Economics and Business, Globalization Studies


The recent spike in world food prices has intensified the debate regarding the impact of food prices on poverty. In this paper we aim to assess households’ vulnerability to food-price increases in four countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Using household data from the World Bank’s Living Standard Measurement Surveys in Ghana (2005–2006), Kagera region, Tanzania (2004), Malawi (2004–2005) and South Africa (1993) we analyze food production and consumption patterns in rural and urban populations. We use two established indicators of sensitivity to food price changes—one measuring the share of income spent on food, the other measuring net sales of food compared to total expenditures. We find that the shares of the populations spending more than half of their income on food ranges from 62–81% in rural areas and from 26–67% in urban areas. Further we find that in all regions studied, most households (74–99%) in rural areas are net buyers of food and stand to lose in the short term from higher food prices. As expected, for urban households this is true to an even higher extent. In contrast to earlier studies we look at all food items and not just one or a few staple foods, giving a better understanding of vulnerability to general food price changes. We find that the exclusion of non-staple foods has a significant impact on theresults.

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