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How do price fluctuations and spikes affect people’s food security? Are cash-based transfers the best way to assist those in need? What are the effects of different types of assistance on markets and families? Should food be procured internationally or locally? Understanding how local economies and markets function enables the World Food Programme (WFP) to identify the best ways to assist people in need and maximize the positive impact of its work.

WFP’s market assessments combine market-related data on prices, food availability and supply chains with the analysis of macroeconomic factors and government policies. Economic growth trends, exchange rate fluctuations, imports and exports, employment and inflation are key indicators. Additionally, geospatial information helps to analyze access to markets, including distances, and how insecurity or weather-related events, such as flooding, affect access.

Relying on its widespread presence in the field, WFP publishes country-based monthly price and market bulletins. These feed the quarterly Market Monitor, which provides information on price changes for the most commonly consumed staple commodities – including cereals and pulses – and their potential impacts on the cost of the basic food basket. All price information is stored in a publicly available price database [FT1] covering more than 1, 500 markets.

Sudden changes in the economy or government policies can have serious and lasting effects on people’s livelihoods and food security. For this reason, WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have developed a tool – the Shock Impact Simulation Model (SISMod) – to measure the food security impact of such shocks. This model was used, for example, to estimate the economic impact of the Ebola crisis on household food security in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. More recently, it has also been used in Nigeria and Yemen.