Have Higher Food Prices Actually Helped the World's Poor?

A farmer prepares water channels in his maize field in Ngiresi near the Tanzanian town of Arusha. Karel Prinsloo/AP Photo

Food prices are rising in the U.S.—up 0.4 percent in March alone, another indicator the economy is showing new signs of life after the recession. Chipotle Mexican Grill announced last week it will raise prices, and many pizza chains, facing higher cheese bills, are following suit. Worldwide, food prices reached a 10-month high in March, a level about 50 percent higher before a series of price spikes began in 2005, prompting concerns about a world food crisis. Surprisingly, it turns out a lot of poor people seem to have benefited from higher prices; hunger appears to be no worse. In the long term, high food prices probably hurt efforts to reduce global poverty, but it’s good news that poor people haven’t suffered over the short term nearly as much as we feared.

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