Making sense of food markets

My interests lie at the intersection of food policy, markets, and nutrition.  At Friedman, I am specializing in food policy and economics and looking at agricultural interventions and nutritional outcomes. This fall semester I had the privilege of putting together a directed study that allowed me to hone in on these interests Food Markets and Dietary Quality.

The overall goal of the study was to reveal what is known about how government policies and other interventions influence the structure and performance of market systems, with regard to nutrition, food security and poverty among rural and urban households in Africa and Latin America. My paper reviewed literature in agricultural economics, nutrition, and public health and to sought to understand how changes in government policy, institutions and technology in food markets influence dietary quality in low and middle-income countries (LMIC). The guiding research question was how government policies and other interventions influence the structure and performance of market systems. Market structure and performance are important for linking signals sent between producers and consumers. Government policies that change market structure and performance impact the decisions of consumers and producers and ultimately their income, nutrition, and well-being.

How do government policies and other interventions influence the structure and performance of market systems? The literature I consulted offered a range of examples of policy tools and interventions governments have at their disposal to positively or negatively affect market structure and ultimately market performance. It is evident that policy changes in food markets influence dietary quality in many ways. In LMIC policies around prices, including tariffs, transportation costs, storage practices and costs, price stabilization, and food quality impact trade, food availability, income, profits, and consumption patterns.

What can international organizations do to assist countries to add value to agricultural products through farmer training on agricultural marketing? Outcomes for society depend on the interactions between buyers and sellers, thus government policy that regulates market structure and performance, which provide the platform for those interactions, decisively impacts food markets and dietary quality.