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High food prices in 2008 sparked food riots around the world, with urban West Africa suffering many of these disturbances. Urban Mali appears to have been spared the worst of this crisis as consumers shifted from rice to sorghum, a grain whose production increased steeply as cotton production collapsed in the wake of lower global prices for this commodity. This study comments on the ‘rice bias’ in policy circles, the tension between cotton and food production, and the hidden blessing of geographic isolation. The findings are based on household surveys and analysis of national-level production data.

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