P129 – Food Shocks and the Aftermath: Price Spikes and Changing Food Consumption in African Countries
9 July, 09:00 – 10:30

Johnston Deborah / SOAS, University of London
Stevano Sara / SOAS, University of London


This panel presents various perspectives on the aftermath of the food price spikes of the last decade. Price shocks have ignited much civil resistance, with African consumers reeling from massive rises in the cost of food. Providing the backdrop are a complex set of factors leading to a secular rise in the penetration of imported food. While this shift can be discerned from the balance of payments data for most countries, we know far less about what it has meant for households. Nutritionists look at the evidence on non-communicable disease and argue that higher diet-related health risks are a good indicator of a transformation in eating patterns for many. Food consumption data itself is harder to come by and often less revealing.

Choques Alimentares e Consequêcias: Picos de Preços e Mudança no Consumo de Alimentos nos Países Africanos
Este painel apresenta várias perspectivas sobre as consequências dos picos de preços na última década. Os choques dos preços alimentares provocaram resistência civil significativa dos consumidores africanos. No pano de fundo há um conjunto complexo de factores que leva a um aumento secular na penetração de alimentos importados. Embora esta mudança pode ser discernida a partir dos dados do balanço de pagamentos, o que nos sabemos muito menos claramente é o que significou para os agregados familiares. Os nutricionistas examinam a evidência sobre a incidência das doenças não transmissíveis e argumentam que riscos mais altos relacionados com a dieta são um bom indicador de uma transformação de hábitos alimentares. Os dados sobre o consumo de alimentos encontram-se mais dificilmente e muitas vezes revelam menos informações.

Paper 1

Leport Julie / Université de Toulouse II – Jean Jaurès

Fish in Dakar : Persistences and changes

Au Sénégal et à Dakar en particulier, le poisson est un aliment central. Son importance est à la fois nutritionnelle, identitaire, symbolique, sociale et économique. Or, la surexploitation des ressources ainsi que les politiques d’exportation du poisson menées par le gouvernement entraînent une raréfaction des ressources et donc une augmentation des prix du poisson sur les marchés dakarois. Dans ce contexte, comment évoluent les modèles alimentaires ? Quelles sont les stratégies mises en place par les populations ?
Pour répondre à ces questions, une étude qualitative a été menée à travers des entretiens individuels et des observations participantes de sessions alimentaires (approvisionnement, préparation et consommation) auprès de 29 mangeurs dakarois. Puis une étude quantitative sous forme de questionnaire a été réalisée auprès de 800 dakarois. L’échantillonnage a été fait selon la méthode des quotas croisés selon l’âge, le sexe et le quartier d’habitation.
Outre l’augmentation du budget alimentaire lorsqu’ils le peuvent, les dakarois agissent à la fois sur les aliments – baisse de la qualité et/ou de la quantité de poisson, poisson séché -, sur les plats – substitution des plats à base de poisson par des bouillies de mil par exemple – et sur la structure de la journée alimentaire – alimentation de rue, un seul repas par jour. Le recours à l’une ou l’autre de ces stratégies et les discours de légitimation qui les accompagnent diffèrent selon le niveau de vie des individus.

Paper 2

Chevalier Sophie / IIAC (LAU), Université de Franche-Comté/CNRS/EHESS

Strategies of Food Consumption. A Case Study of Durban

If the food prices in South Africa are usually more controlled than elsewhere in Africa, nevertheless food inflation there exposes the less affluent classes to considerable precarity. Based on a long-term study of food consumption among the lower middle classes across the range of Durban’s communities, including urban food supply chains as well as individual shopping and cooking preferences, I will focus here on strategies for coping with increasingly precarious livelihoods and fragile claims on social status.
I describe two aspects of my informants’ economic and social behaviour:
• by organising their provisions through access to a wide range of shopping possibilities – from traditional markets to huge supermarkets chains – they have the means of budgeting and coping with the inflationary prices of certain food items;
• by maintaining strong links to their community of origin, food provisioning and consumption are built around community norms of sharing rather than social class identification.
These two aspects allow them to cope with the uncertainties of economy and of their class status. Each trend offers an obstacle to realising the project of individualised consumption which underpins neoliberal capitalism.

Paper 3

Picchioni Fiorella / SOAS (University of London)

Impacts of food price changes on food security in Africa: preliminary estimates of Minimum Calorie Expenditure Shares

There are conflicting views of the impacts of the 2008 global food price spike on global and African food security. Key questions concern the extent to which food insecure populations have experienced food price increases (as a result of interactions between global prices and their transmission to domestic markets, domestic supply-demand situations and domestic policies) and how far the effects of any food price rises have been counteracted by economic and income growth. This suggests that it is the relationship between food prices and income that is critical for food security. This paper sets out preliminary insights on the effects of recent global and domestic staple food price changes on the food security of poor people in a sample of African and other countries using a novel food price indicator, the Minimum Calorie Expenditure Share (MCES). This calculates the expenditure required to meet a minimum per capita calorie from staples consumption as a share of total expenditure in different income groups of a population. We describe the methodology and its data needs for construction of national estimates and for building regional indicators before presenting preliminary estimates of post 2000 MCES series for a sample of African and comparator countries. The main patterns of change are then compared with findings from other studies and conclusions drawn regarding food price impacts on food security and the possible use of MCES in monitoring these impacts.

Paper 4

Stevano Sara / SOAS (University of London)

The production of food vulnerability: Food price, seasonality and agricultural labour in northern Mozambique

Assessments and conceptualisations of food security are often reliant on snapshot-based measurements of access to food. For instance, although the role of seasonality in shaping food consumption and security has been repeatedly highlighted in some literature, food research and policy has frequently neglected the importance of seasonality. However much more can be understood about food vulnerability if its study is grounded in the analysis of the underlying determinants, on the one hand, and in the observation of its seasonal and temporal dynamics, on the other hand. This paper investigates the interactions between food price fluctuations, seasonality and agricultural labour in the province of Cabo Delgado, northern Mozambique. The combination of high food prices and agricultural cycles are at the basis of the organisation of productive and reproductive activities – i.e. during the rainy seasons poorer households need to resort to occasional agricultural wage work in order to respond to food shortages and increased food prices. Addressing these interactions offers a lens to look at the processes of production of food insecurity over time and how it differently affects socio-economic groups. Efforts to tackle food insecurity must address the structural patterns that underlie the production of food-related vulnerability.

Paper 5

Johnston Deborah / SOAS (University of London)

The response to food price spikes in the workplace: A case study of Ethiopian flower farms

Rises in food prices can affect the workplace. Those dependent on wage work may try various strategies to achieve sufficient consumption. They may search harder and even migrate for better paying employment, or, if there is structural and associational space in the jobs where they presently work, they may attempt action to push up wages. For employers in sectors that demand large amounts of timely labour, food price spikes can lead to problems obtaining sufficient labour. In this case study of the Ethiopia flower sector, the reasons why some farms provide food is discussed in the context of competition for labour. Rises in food prices in Ethiopia have significantly changed the ability of poor workers to provision food for their households. Food provision for these workers increases their food intake but does not resolve food insecurity and raises issues about health outcomes.

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