Diverting grain from animal feed and biofuels: can it protect the poor from high food prices?

Research reports and studies,Briefing papers
July 2013
Anna Locke, Giles Henley, Sharada Keats and Steve Wiggins

Diverting grain from animal feed or industrial use to human consumption has been suggested as a way to dampen the impact of volatile cereal prices on the poor. 

Of the 2,100 million tonnes of cereals produced annually, 800 million tonnes or more is used to feed animals or for industry, equivalent to close to 40% of total production. Could some of this be diverted to human use, temporarily, until a price spike passes by?

Economics and international trade conditions determine whether such a scheme is feasible in different countries. ODI research suggests that conditions for a grain diversion scheme look most promising in the US, which produces enough grain to deliver benefits for global food prices and for the poor, and where there is potential domestic support for such diversion.

However, grain diversion does not seem to be feasible as a standalone policy: it would have to be combined with other policies to be effective and operate as a short-term policy to protect poor people during cereal-price spikes.