Report: Food export restrictions don't prevent shortages

Wednesday, 29 June, 2022

Report: Food export restrictions don't prevent shortages

Putting restrictions on the export of food to stave off local shortages can actually exacerbate problems, according to a new report from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES).

Countries may implement export restrictions or introduce higher taxes on exports to encourage local producers to keep their food on local shores. The report argues that this can actually lead to more shortages, for more people, due to other countries responding in kind and sending ripples of food insecurity across the world.

ABARES Executive Director Dr Jared Greenville said that the 2007–08 food crisis, where multiple countries were faced with limited food stocks and food export restrictions were common, could provide some lessons.

“Often when there is an increase in world food prices, governments respond by placing export restrictions on their own commodities,” Greenville said. “The aim is to moderate domestic prices and ease the burden on their own populations, which is understandable in the circumstances.

“However, export restrictions reduce the supply of food in world markets and increase prices, creating greater incentives for other countries to restrict exports. For this reason, widespread export restrictions have a negative impact on global food security and hurt the poorest people, who are already struggling to put food on the table.”

Talk of export restrictions is relevant at the moment because countries around the world are facing food shortages for a multitude of reasons and are already beginning to block exports.

“We are starting to see the use of export restrictions rise as food prices begin to rise due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, poor growing conditions in major exporting countries and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, around 24 countries have introduced export restrictions,” Greenville said.

“Removing export restrictions, or agreements to avoid implementing them in the first place, can help to ensure food is more available globally and increase the stability of food supplies.

“Short-term humanitarian aid, market transparency and cutting trade barriers all help to alleviate the stresses of global food insecurity.

“And having free and open trade through multiple trading relationships gives households options that help limit the risk of food insecurity.”

The ABARES Insights: Food security - The impact of export restrictions report can be read online.

Image credit: © OBrien

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