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Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank
Middle East and North Africa | Middle East | North Africa | Australia
2015-08-28T18:07:36Z | 2015-08-28T18:07:36Z | 2014-01-23

In times of highly volatile commodity markets, governments often try to protect their populations from rapidly rising food prices, which can be particularly harmful for the poor. A potential solution for food-deficit countries is to hold strategic reserves that can be called on when international prices spike. But how large should strategic stockpiles be, and what rules should govern their release? In this paper, we develop a dynamic competitive storage model for wheat in the Middle East and North Africa region, where imported wheat is the most significant component of the average diet. We analyze a strategy that sets aside wheat stockpiles, which can be used to keep domestic prices below a targeted price. Our analysis shows that if the target price is set high and reserves are adequate, the strategy can be effective and robust. Contrary to most interventions, strategic storage policies are counter-cyclical, and when the importing region is sufficiently large, a regional policy can smooth global prices. Simulations indicate that this is the case for the Middle East and North Africa region. Nevertheless, the policy is more costly than a procyclical policy similar to food stamps that uses targeted transfers to directly offset high prices with a subsidy.


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