Industries in Depth

2 charts that show the sharp rise in food prices

food prices

Global food prices spiked in March 2022. Image: Unsplash/Melissa Askew

Johnny Wood
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  • Global food prices reached their highest ever level in March 2022.
  • Food commodity prices increased by a third compared to the previous year.
  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has added to wider post-pandemic price growth.

Global food commodity prices hit an all-time high in March following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Alongside the continuing humanitarian crisis, the conflict has destabilized Ukraine's economy, with the World Bank predicting a more than 45% fall in economic output in 2022.

The Russian Federation and Ukraine, combined, supply around 30% of global wheat exports and around a fifth of the world’s maize. Shortages of these and other commodities have destabilized global supply chains, sending food prices soaring.


What is the World Economic Forum doing to help ensure global food security?

FAO Food Price Index
The FAO's Food Price Index has seen a sharp rise

The FAO Food Price Index measures the monthly change in global prices of a basket of food commodities. Figures for March show a 12.6% increase in global food prices compared to February, the highest price levels recorded in the index’s three-decade history. Year-on-year comparisons show index prices increased by a third compared to March 2021.

Increasing food prices

Staple goods like grains and vegetable oils are among the worst affected foodstuffs.

The FAO’s Cereal Price Index was more than 17% higher in March than February, driven by lower wheat and coarse-grain exports onto the world market: global wheat and maize prices each increased by around a fifth during the month of March.

FAO Food Prices Commodities Index
The cost of vegetable oil has risen sharply, according to the FAO.
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As Ukraine is the world’s leading exporter of sunflower seed oil, supply shortages helped drive a 23% monthly increase in the FAO’s Vegetable Oil Index. A perfect storm of rising sunflower oil prices, increased costs of crude oil and reduced vegetable oil exports from South America, caused prices of other oils like palm, soy and rapeseed to surge.

Smaller increases were also recorded in the global price of commodities like sugar, meat and dairy products.

Rising cost of living

Higher global food prices are part of a wider trend of cost of living increases already at work in both advanced and emerging economies, exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The global economy is still some way off a recovery, following the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rising inflation, supply-chain disruptions – that are yet to return to pre-pandemic ‘normal’ levels – and other post-lockdown hangovers have caused prices to increase, for everything from food to energy bills.

While the squeeze on household incomes is an unwelcome visitor to most homes, low-income families in developing countries will be worst affected. For the developing world, higher prices go hand in hand with greater food insecurity as reduced exports of cereals and other commodities pose the greatest threat for these regions.

But, despite the impact on food exports due to the war in Ukraine, the FAO Cereal Supply and Demand Brief forecasts global wheat production in 2022 will reach 784 million tonnes, a 1.1% increase from the previous year. This is due to favourable production trends in regions like China, India, North America and the European Union, which could help stabilize global markets and provide food security to those who need it most.

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Industries in DepthFood and Water
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