In a recent article in International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food (IJSAF), Jostein Brobakk and Reidar Almås has studied the drivers behind the events leading up to the 2008 food crisis.
Due to a stagnating productivity growth and a steady increase in the global demand for food, including growth in biofuel production, markets became tighter and prices increased. In this situation, the food markets became more vulnerable to external shocks, like the vast increase in food commodity speculation post US and EU deregulations in the early 2000s. In the article, Brobakk and Almås conclude that production-related developments made food prices increase from the mid-2000s, but financial sector developments made them peak in 2008. The effects of climate change are gradually becoming more important for the developments within the agri-food sector, but they most likely did not contribute directly to the food crisis in 2008.
Brobakk, Jostein and Reidar Almås 2011: Increasing Food and Energy Prices in 2008: What Were the Causes and Who Was to Blame. International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food. Vol. 18 (3):236–259