Larson, Donald F.
Development Research Group, World Bank
Author Name Variants
Fields of Specialization
Rural Development Policy; Natural Resource Policy; Agricultural Productivity and Growth; Climate Change Policy and Markets; Commodity Markets and Risk
Development Research Group, World Bank
Externally Hosted Work
Last updated January 31, 2023
Donald F. Larson is a Senior Economist with the World Bank’s Development Research Group. He holds a B.A in economics from the College of William and Mary, an M.A. in economics from Virginia Tech, and a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Resource Economics from the University of Maryland. With colleagues, he has authored or edited five books, including An African Green Revolution: Finding Ways to Boost Productivity on Small Farms, a forthcoming volume from Springer, and The Clean Development Mechanism: An Early History of Unanticipated Outcomes, a forthcoming volume from World Scientific. He has published numerous book chapters and journal articles, with an emphasis on agricultural productivity and growth; food and rural development policies; natural resource policies; the institutions and markets related to climate change; and the performance of commodity futures and risk markets. During his time with the World Bank, Don has participated in policy discussion in Africa, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, East Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. He was a member of the team that launched the World Bank’s Prototype Carbon Fund.
Publication Search Results
Now showing 1 - 6 of 6
Commodity Market Reforms : Lessons of Two Decades(Washington, DC: World Bank, 2001-03) Akiyama, Takamasa ; Baffes, John ; Larson, Donald ; Varangis, PanosStructural reform of the economies of developing countries has been in the forefront of development interest since the early 1980s. This interest stems from a recognition that the structures and institutions of these countries are critical to any enhancement of economic and social development. One of the key reforms has been that of primary commodity markets, especially agricultural commodity markets, because many developing countries, including the poorest, depend heavily on these for foreign exchange earnings and employment, and hence for poverty reduction. This report focuses on the political economy and institutional aspects of agricultural commodity market reform. In order to explore in detail factors that are critical to the processes, consequences, and substance of reform, the authors have focused the analysis and evaluation on five commodities important in many developing countries, specifically cocoa, coffee, sugar, cotton, and cereal. In doing so, they highlight important lessons on how agricultural sector reform can be launched and implemented. Some of the factors identified in the report as being key to successful reform include the recognition that commodity markets often affect communities and even politics, that the initial conditions of markets are critical, and that government intervention can crowd out private sector initiatives, especially when it comes to building the institutions needed to develop a healthy agricultural sector.
Agricultural Markets and Risks : Management of the Latter, Not the Former(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2002-02) Varangis, Panos ; Larson, Donald ; Anderson, Jack R.The authors review the historical relationship between the work of applied economists, and policymakers, and the institutions that came to characterize the commodity, and risk markets of the 1980s. These institutions were a response to the harmful consequences of commodity market volatility, and declining terms of trade. But the chosen policies, and instruments relied on market interventions, to directly affect prices, or the distribution of prices in domestic, and international markets. For practical, and more fundamental reasons, this approach failed. The authors next discuss how a growing body of work, contributed to a change in thinking that moved policy away from stabilization goals, toward policies that emphasized the management of risks. They distinguish between the macroeconomic effects of volatile commodity markets, and the consequences for businesses, and households. The authors argue that both sets of problems remain important development issues, but that appropriate policy instruments are largely separate. Nonetheless, because governments, households, and firms must all respond to a wide range of sources of risk, they emphasize the role for an integrated policy by government. Increasingly, alternative approaches have come to rely on market-based instruments. Such approaches accept the market view of relative prices as immutable, but address directly the negative consequences of volatility. As traditional risk markets (such as futures and insurance markets) expand, and new parametric markets emerge, the practicality of applying market-based instruments to traditional risk, and development problems increases. The authors show the change in approaches to risk, and the reliance on old, and new market instruments, with new, and sometimes experimental programs, with special emphasis on programs at the World Bank.
Can Financial Markets be Tapped to Help Poor People Cope with Weather Risks?(World Bank, Washington, D.C., 2002-03) Skees, Jerry ; Varangis, Panos ; Larson, Donald ; Siegel, PaulPoor households in rural areas are particularly vulnerable to risks that reduce incomes and increase expenditures. Most past research has focused on risk-coping strategies for the rural poor, specially on micro-level and household actions. These are risks that can been shared within a community or extended family. These strategies are effective for independent risks, but ineffective for covariate or systemic risks. The authors focus on private and public mechanisms for managing covariate risk for natural disasters. When many households within the same community face risks that create losses for all, traditional coping mechanisms are likely to fail. Such covariate risks are not uncommon in many developing countries, especially where farming remains a major source of income. The authors focus on risks related to weather events (such as excess rain, droughts, freezes, and high winds) that have a severe impact on rural incomes. Weather insurance could cover the covariate risk for a community of poor households through formal and informal risk-sharing arrangements among households that are purchasing these weather contracts. Given recent Mexican innovations targeted at helping the poor cope with catastrophe weather events, the authors use Mexico as a case study. In Mexico, poor households are exposed to systemic risks, such as droughts and floods, that affect the economic livelihood of their region. Catastrophic insurance is useful for small farmers, although commercially oriented small farmers may wish to obtain coverage for less catastrophic events. Weather insurance could meet this need. It pays out according to the frequency and intensity of specific weather events. Because weather insurance depends on the occurrences and objective measure of intensity of a specific event, it does not require individual farm inspection that can be very costly for small farm. The authors argue that a key issue of delivering insurance to small farmers is the existence of producer organizations. In Mexico, the farmer mutual insurance funds provide a good example. These funds provide insurance to their members by pulling together resources to pay for future indemnities and reinsures itself from major systemic risks that could hurt simultaneously all their members.
Policies on Managing Risk in Agricultural Markets(World Bank, 2004-09-01) Larson, Donald F. ; Anderson, Jock R. ; Varangis, PanosOver the past dozen years, policymakers have largely abandoned long-standing popular approaches for addressing risk in agriculture without fully resolving the question of how best to manage the negative consequences of volatile agricultural markets. The article reviews the transition from past policies and describes current approaches that distinguish between the trade-related fiscal consequences of commodity market volatility and the consequences of price and production risks for vulnerable rural households and communities. Current policies rely more heavily on markets, even though markets for risk are incomplete in numerous ways. The benefits and limitations of market-based instruments are examined in the context of risk management strategies, and innovative approaches to extend the reach of risk markets are discussed.
Commodity Market Reform in Africa : Some Recent Experience(World Bank, Washington, DC, 2003-03) Akiyama, Takamasa ; Baffes, John ; Larson, Donald F. ; Varangis, PanosSince the early 1980s, dramatic changes in export commodity markets, shocks associated with resulting price declines, and changing views on the role of the state have ushered in widespread reforms to agricultural commodity markets in Africa. The reforms significantly reduced government participation in the marketing and pricing of commodities. Akiyama, Baffes, Larson, and Varangis examine the background, causes, process, and consequences of these reforms and derive lessons for successful reforms from experiences in markets for four commodities important to Africa-cocoa, coffee, cotton, and sugar. The authors' commodity focus highlights the special features associated with these markets that affect the reform process. They complement the current literature on market reforms in Africa, where grain-market studies are more common. The authors suggest that the types of market interventions prior to reform are more easily classified by crop than by country. Consequently, there are significant commodity-specific differences in the initial conditions and in the outcomes of reforms related to these markets. But there are general lessons as well. The authors find that the key consequences of reform have been significant changes in or emergence of marketing institutions and a significant shift of political and economic power from the public to the private sector. In cases where interventions were greatest and reforms most complete, producers have benefited from receiving a larger share of export prices. Additionally, the authors conclude that the adjustment costs of reform can be reduced in most cases by better understanding the detailed and idiosyncratic relationships between the commodity subsector, private markets, and public services. Finally, while there are significant costs to market-dependent reforms, experiences suggest that they are a necessary step toward a dynamic commodity sector based on private initiative. This is particularly true in countries and sectors where interventions were greatest and market-supporting institutions the weakest.
Using Markets to Deal with Commodity Price Volatility : What Can Governments and Donors Do to Develop Markets that Ameliorate Commodity Price Volatility?(World Bank, Washington, DC, 1999-01) Larson, Donald ; Varangis, PanosCommodities are often at the heart of local and sometimes national economies. Commodity prices are notoriously volatile, creating instability and uncertainty for commodity-dependent developing countries. Commodity price instability undermines economic growth and skews the distribution of income. As a result, nearly every government has tried to manage commodity price risks. This Note discusses different sets of commodity pricing policies and the barriers to their risk management.