This week’s issue of The Economist has an article in the Leaders section titled “In Praise of Quinoa,” which mentions the work I have done with my PhD student Johanna Fajardo-Gonzalez and my Towson colleague Seth Gitter on the welfare impacts of rapidly rising quinoa prices from 2004 to 2013:
The globalisation and modernisation of agriculture have contributed to a stunning reduction in hunger. Between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of children under five who were malnourished fell from 25% to 14%. People who are still underfed are less severely so: their average shortfall in calories fell from 170 a day to 88 by 2016. And between 1990 and 2012 the proportion of their income that poor people worldwide had to spend on food fell from 79% to 54%. As for those quinoa farmers, don’t worry. A study by Marc Bellemare of the University of Minnesota found that Peruvian households became better-off because of the quinoa boom, even if they didn’t grow the stuff, because newly prosperous quinoa farmers bought more goods and services from their neighbours.
Granted, rising prosperity has allowed an increasing number of people to become unhealthily fat. But the solution to that is not to make them poorer, which is what the backlash against globalisation will do if it succeeds. Rather than sniping snootily about Donald Trump’s taste for well-done steaks slathered with ketchup, liberals should worry about the administration’s plans to erect trade barriers and possibly start a trade war. That would make the world poorer and hungrier.
It’s not every day that one gets mentioned in the same breath as George Orwell… or Saddam Hussein and Donald Trump!
The same issue of The Economist has another article on the globalization of food preferences in which my friend and Michigan State colleague Tom Reardon is briefly interviewed:
Rice has long been popular in some west African countries, such as Senegal. It is becoming a staple in much of the region. Thomas Reardon, who studies food at Michigan State University, says that urbanisation is driving demand. Urban workers developed a taste for rice in cafés and now cook it at home. Besides, rice is less fiddly to cook than millet or sorghum, adds Mr Roy-Macauley—a convenience food for Africa’s tired city workers.