THE UNSTOPPABLE RISE OF GLOBAL FOOD PRICES21/02/2022
The COVID-19 pandemic forced us all to face unprecedented challenges. We do not seem to be completely out of it yet, but surely now we can afford a little time to look back and reflect upon the changes it brought in our industry. From farmers still being able to keep their production alive to traders moving food around the world – despite the logistics difficulties we all know – and retailers doing their best to keep shelves as full as possible, there seem to be plenty of reasons to pat ourselves on the shoulder.
If we look into the future, though, another challenge is upon us. After the slight fall registered last December when vegetable oils and sugar prices declined significantly, global food prices are on the rise again. The FAO Food Price Index averaged 135.7 points in January 2022, nearing it closer to its 2011 all-time high. Unstable weather, labor shortages and an increase in the price of fertilizers, crop protection products and machinery are significantly affecting the food and agriculture sector. Combined with other inflationary forces such as the astounding rise in gas prices, just to name one, the impact is such that agricultural commodity prices have just reached a +40%, if compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Even if last month the Sugar Price registered the second consecutive monthly decline and the lowest level in the past six months, the Cereal Price Index went 12.5% above its level one year ago and the Dairy Price Index recorded the fifth consecutive monthly increase. Averaging 112.6 points in January, the Meat Price Index is on the rise as well thus pushing the index value 17.3% above its corresponding month a year ago.
It is almost impossible now to make solid forecasts; yet, considering the increased demand and the number of economic factors involved, it is very unlikely that food prices will rapidly return to pre-pandemic figures. And even if it may enjoy a little price drop off historical highs, the supply chain is going to face a hard time this year as well. As soon as the inflationary pressure reaches the final consumer, we will be able to tell if social discontent can be the catalyst that turns the clock back.