Food export restrictions do not prevent shortages
According to a new report from Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Science (ABARES).
Countries can put in place export restrictions or introduce higher taxes on exports to encourage local producers to keep their food on local shores. The report argues that this may actually lead to more shortages, for more people, as other countries respond in kind and send waves of food insecurity across the world.
ABARES Executive Director, Dr Jared Greenville, said the food crisis of 2007-2008, when several countries faced limited food stocks and food export restrictions were common, could provide lessons.
“Often, when there is an increase in global food prices, governments respond by imposing export restrictions on their own products,” Greenville said. “The goal is to moderate domestic prices and ease the burden on their own people, which is understandable under the circumstances.
“However, export restrictions reduce the supply of food on world markets and increase prices, which further incentivizes other countries to restrict their exports. For this reason, widespread export restrictions are having a negative impact on global food security and hurting the poorest people, who are already struggling to put food on the table.
Talking about export restrictions is relevant right now as countries around the world are facing food shortages for a multitude of reasons and are already starting to block exports.
“We are starting to see the use of export restrictions increase as food prices begin to rise due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, poor growing conditions in major exporting countries and impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, about 24 countries have introduced export restrictions,” Greenville said.
“Removing export restrictions, or agreements to avoid implementing them in the first place, can help ensure that food is more available globally and increase the stability of food supplies.
“Short-term humanitarian assistance, market transparency and the removal of trade barriers help ease tensions related to global food insecurity.
“And having free and open trade through multiple trading relationships provides households with options that help limit the risk of food insecurity.”
The ABARES Insights: Food Security – Report on the impact of export restrictions can be read online.