The Impact of Food Prices on Conflict Revisited

Year: 2019 HiCN Working Paper No. 316

Studies that examine the impact of food prices on conflict usually assume that (all) changes in international food prices are exogenous shocks for individual countries or local areas. By isolating strictly exogenous shifts in global food commodity prices, we show that this assumption could seriously distort estimations of the impact on conflict in African regions. Specifically, we show that increases in food prices that are caused by harvest shocks outside Africa raise conflict significantly, whereas a “naive” regression of conflict on international food prices uncovers an inverse relationship. We also find that higher food prices lead to more conflict in regions with more agricultural production. Again, we document that failing to account for exogenous price changes exhibits a considerable bias in the impact. In addition, we show that the conventional approach to evaluate such effects; that is, estimations that include time fixed effects, ignores an important positive baseline effect that is common for all regions.