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Placing the 2006/08 Commodity Price Boom into Perspective

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Market / Trade
Nutrition / Food Systems
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Risk assessment
John Baffes and Tassos Haniotis
The World Bank

The 2006-08 commodity price boom was one of the longest and broadest of the post-World War II period. Apart from strong and sustained economic growth, the recent boom was fueled by numerous factors, including low past investment in extractive commodities, weak dollar, fiscal expansion, and lax monetary policy in many countries, and investment fund activity. At the same time, the combination of adverse weather conditions, the diversion of some food commodities to the production of biofuels, and government policies
(including export bans and prohibitive taxes) brought global stocks of many food commodities down to levels not seen since the early 1970s. This in turn accelerated the price increases that eventually led to the 2008 rally.

The weakening and/or reversal of these factors coupled with the financial crisis that erupted in September 2008 and the subsequent global economic downturn, induced. This paper—a product of the Development Prospects Group—is part of a larger effort in the department to gain a better understanding of the causes and consequences of the 2006–08 commodity price boom.

This paper concludes that a stronger link between energy and nonenergy commodity prices is likely to be the dominant influence on developments in commodity, and especially food, markets. Demand by emerging economies is unlikely to put additional pressure on the prices of food commodities. The paper also argues that the effect of biofuels on food prices has not been as large as originally thought, but that the use of commodities by financial investors (the so-called ”financialization of commodities”) may have been partly responsible for the 2007/08 spike.

Finally, econometric analysis of the long-term evolution of commodity prices supports the thesis that price variability overwhelms price trends.