2.3 billion people going severely or moderately hungry last year, according to a global report by the World Food Program and four other U.N. agencies.
Food prices had been steadily climbing worldwide because of drought, supply chain issues, and high energy and fertilizer costs. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says food commodity prices were up 23% last year. Russia’s war in Ukraine further sent the price of wheat and cooking oils up, fueling a global food crisis.
Food prices have risen by nearly 14% this year in emerging markets and by over 7% in advanced economies, according to Capital Economics. In countries where people spend at least a third or more of their incomes on food, any sharp increase in prices can lead to crisis. Capital Economics forecasts that households in developed markets will spend an extra $7 billion a month on food and beverages this year and much of next year due to inflation.
Food prices accounted for about 60% of last year’s increase in inflation in the Middle East and North Africa, with the exception of oil-producing Gulf countries. The situation is particularly dire for Sudan, where inflation is expected to hit 245% this year, and Iran, where prices spiked as much as 300% for chicken, eggs and milk in May, sparking panic and protests.
In Somalia, where sugar is a source of energy, in May, a kilogram of sugar cost about the equivalent of 72 cents in Mogadishu, the capital. A month later, it had shot up to $1.28 a kilogram.
There’s concern that the impact of all these factors will lead more countries to resort to food export bans, which are felt globally. When Indonesia blocked the export of palm oil for a month in April, palm oil prices spiked by at least 200%. Other examples of their impact include Kazakhstan’s restrictions on grains and oil on prices in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan; Cameroon’s rice export restriction on Chad; and Tunisia’s fruit and vegetable restrictions on Libya. Malaysia banned exports last month of live broiler chickens. India imposed restrictions on the export of its wheat. India also announced it would cap sugar exports this year. Even if that doesn’t reduce India’s sugar exports compared with previous years, news of the restriction was enough to cause speculation among traders