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Overseas Development Institute (ODI) Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN) Food and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)

Civil society and regional food security Policy Brief No. 6

Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN), Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Food and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)

13 March 2006

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Reforming maize markets and regional food security


There are major debates going on in SADC countries over the contribution that national grain (and especially maize) policies add to the problems of regional food insecurity by restricting production and marketing.
This Policy Brief is intended to encourage greater CSO involvement in these debates and show that local evidence on the impact of national maize price and market policies can help to inform what is a very complex issue for most governments confronted with immediate challenges of widespread hunger in their own countries and demands to address long term strategies for the region as a whole.

Technocrats vs Politicians?

The debate over the need for a regional approach to maize market reforms is sometimes characterised as technocrats (with theoretical attachments to long term structural change) versus politicians (faced by short-term problems of crisis management).

The technocratic argument is that if grain is allowed to flow more freely across the region’s borders, and private traders and millers are allowed to operate with less restriction, or even more predictability over the application of restrictions, this will provide more incentives for production, prices will stabilise and chronic food insecurity will be much less than now.

Some politicians say that this may well be true in the long run but, meanwhile, it is their responsibility to ensure people have food available and can afford to buy it. This responsibility, they claim, means that there will be times when they must ban exports of food, or impose tariffs on imports to allow local producers to compete, and they must have the capacity to ‘correct’ the market by buying and distributing food directly in times when prices rise or there are shortfalls in supply.

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