World food prices grew strongly from 2003, but fell sharply after the 2008 onset of the global financial crisis. Since then, however, prices have rebounded and by mid-2011 reached even higher levels. The World Bank estimates more than 40 million people have been pushed into extreme poverty as a result, while political pressures have been felt not only in the ‘Arab Spring’ countries but also across sub-Saharan Africa and beyond. Alex Cobham is Chief Policy Adviser at Christian Aid, and was formerly a researcher and tutor in economics at the University of Oxford. Christian Aid works in more than 40 countries to support civil society organisations working against poverty, and at a global level seeks to challenge and change the structures and systems that cause and exacerbate poverty. Alex explores the role of commodity markets in distorting food prices. While short-termist financial ‘speculators’ are often blamed, it may be that large institutional investors like pension funds are inadvertently playing the key role.
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