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Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response

Food security - livelihoods standard 3: Access to markets

The disaster-affected population’s safe access to market goods and services as producers, consumers and traders is protected and promoted.

Key actions (to be read in conjunction with the guidance notes)

Key indicators (to be read in conjunction with the guidance notes)

Guidance notes

  1. Market demand and supply: Economic access to markets is influenced by purchasing power, market prices and availability. Affordability depends on the terms of trade between basic needs (food, essential agricultural inputs such as seeds, tools, healthcare, etc.) and income sources (cash crops, livestock, wages, etc.). Erosion of assets occurs when deterioration of trade forces people to sell assets (often at low prices) in order to buy basic needs (at inflated prices). Access to markets may also be influenced by the political and security environment and by cultural or religious considerations, which restrict access by certain groups such as minorities.
  2. Market analysis: Consideration should be given to access to functioning markets for all affected people, including vulnerable individuals. Responses that remunerate in cash, vouchers or food or provide inputs should be preceded by an appropriate level of market analysis for the commodity supplied. Local purchase of surpluses will support local producers but adverse risks also need to be identified. Imports are likely to reduce local prices (see Food security and nutrition assessment standard 1, guidance note 7).
  3. Advocacy: Markets operate in the wider national and global economies, which influence local market conditions. For example, governmental policies, including pricing and trade policies, influence access and availability. Although actions at this level are beyond the scope of disaster response, these factors should be analysed as there may be opportunities for a joint agency approach or to advocate for improvements with government and other organisations (see Protection Principle 3).
  4. Vulnerable people: Vulnerability analysis to identify the people who have restricted access to markets and livelihood opportunities should be carried out. Persons with disabilities, PLHIV, older people and women with caring responsibilities must be supported to access markets.
  5. Impact of interventions: Local procurement of food, seeds or other commodities may cause local inflation to the disadvantage of consumers but to the benefit of local producers. Conversely, imported food may drive prices down and act as a disincentive to local food production, potentially increasing food insecurity. Provision of cash may have positive multiplier effects in local economies but could also cause local inflation for key goods. Those responsible for procurement should monitor these effects and take them into account. Food distribution could also affect the purchasing power of beneficiaries, as it is a form of income transfer. Some commodities are easier to sell for a good price than others, e.g. oil versus blended food. The ‘purchasing power’ associated with a given food or food basket will influence whether it is eaten or sold by the beneficiary household. An understanding of household sales and purchases is important in determining the wider impact of food distribution programmes.
  6. Abnormally extreme seasonal price fluctuations may adversely affect poor agricultural producers, who have to sell their produce when prices are at their lowest (usually just after harvest) or livestock owners who are forced to sell during drought. Conversely, consumers who have little disposable income cannot afford to invest in food stocks, depending instead on small but frequent purchases. Therefore, they are forced to buy even when prices are high (e.g. during drought). Examples of interventions which can minimise these effects include improved transport and storage systems, diversified food production and cash or food transfers at critical times.