Food Security and Scarcity
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Food Security and Scarcity
Why Ending Hunger Is So Hard

C. Peter Timmer

232 pages | 6 x 9 | 18 illus.
Cloth 2014 | ISBN 9780812246667 | $65.00s | Outside the Americas £54.00
Paper 2019 | ISBN 9780812224511 | $26.50s | Outside the Americas £20.99
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors

"Peter Timmer is one of the world's foremost experts on global food policy. This book draws on his very extensive experience, primarily but not exclusively from Asia, his very impressive research record, his large number of publications and his effective application of economic theory to food policy analysis. . . . In this book, Timmer has once again guided those of us interested in food policy through the complexities of the food sector and its interaction with economics and politics."—-American Journal of Agricultural Economics

"In a deeply insightful examination of how to address the complex task of ending hunger—an analysis based on decades of work in this area—Timmer calls for markets, policies, and investments that focus on pro-poor growth, agricultural development, and stable food economies. Reiterating the importance of a historical perspective, he highlights short-, medium-, and long-term actions, including managing volatile food prices, managing the demand for food, and managing a sustainable increase in food supplies. His perspectives are immensely valuable and timely as we strive to accelerate the pace of progress and end hunger and undernutrition by 2025, a realistic goal if key stakeholders work together."—Shenggen Fan, Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute

"A unique and valuable book which showcases Timmer's clear-headed approach to the interpretation and use of the data on food security. Drawing on his own past work as well as recent published research, Timmer extracts important lessons about what has changed and what has not."—Robert L. Paarlberg, Wellesley College

"This book is an excellent treatment of a highly complex question: why it is so hard to end hunger. It deserves to take its place among the most definitive and transparent contributions to the analysis of food security and scarcity."—Erik Thorbecke, Cornell University

In countries that have managed to confront and cope with the challenges of food insecurity over the past two centuries, markets have done the heavy lifting. Markets serve as the arena for allocating society's scarce resources to meet the virtually unlimited needs and desires of consumers: no other mechanism can efficiently signal fluctuations in scarcity and abundance, the cost of labor, or the value of commodities. But markets fail at tasks that society regards as important; thus, governments have had to intervene to stabilize the economic environment and provide essential public goods, such as transportation and communications networks, agricultural research and development, and access to quality health and educational facilities. Ending hunger requires that each society find the right balance of market forces and government interventions to drive a process of economic growth that reaches the poor and ensures that food supplies are readily, and reliably, available and accessible to even the poorest households. But locating that balance has been a major challenge for many countries, and seems to be getting more difficult as the global economy becomes more integrated and less stable.

Food Security and Scarcity explains what forms those challenges take in the long run and short term and at global, national, and household levels. C. Peter Timmer, best known for his work on the definitive text Food Policy Analysis, draws on decades of food security research and analysis to produce the most comprehensive and up-to-date assessment of what makes a productive, sustainable, and stable food system—and why so many countries have fallen short. Poverty and hunger are different in every country, so the manner of coping with the challenges of ending hunger and keeping it at bay will depend on equally country-specific analysis, governance, and solutions. Timmer shows that for all their problems and failures, markets and food prices are ultimately central to solving the problem of hunger, and that any coherent strategy to improve food security will depend on an in-depth understanding of how food markets operate.


Published in association with the Center for Global Development.

C. Peter Timmer is Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Development Studies, emeritus, at Harvard University. He is author of many books, including A World Without Agriculture: The Structural Transformation in Historical Perspective, and coauthor of Food Policy Analysis.

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