Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility: Evidence from Two Communities in Pakistan

This report contributes to the Life in a Time of Food Price Volatility project by examining the impact of food price volatility on poor and vulnerable households through qualitative research conducted in 2012 and 2013 at ‘listening posts’ in a rural and urban area of Pakistan. While food prices are high in relation to the purchasing power of the poor, price volatility has remained in check.

This is partly due to policies for preventing shortages and price spirals which were put in place following the crisis period of 2007-09. Idiosyncratic shocks rather than price changes are conspicuous sources of food insecurity for poor households. Our study finds that the poor and vulnerable face short periods of hunger but prolonged hunger is prevented by informal mechanisms of support that operate through the ‘food economy’. While formal systems in the form of cash transfers and government employment are considered significant sources of support, the government is not considered as a guarantor of food security by the poor. We find that the ‘future farmers’ hypothesis does not hold true for Pakistan as increases in output prices have not changed attitudes of young people towards farming.