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Global food inflation fears grow as UN index at 6-year high

By Reuters | Feb 5th 2021 | 2 min read
By Reuters | February 5th 2021
Salome Wanjiru, 32, from Langas Estate, sorts out her green beans and other commodities outside Eldoret air Market, after receiving food products from Uganda. She sells 2 kilos of green beans at a price of Sh350 to Sh400 depending on the demands from customers. 11.01.2021. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

Global food prices rose for an eighth consecutive month in January to their highest since July 2014, the United Nations food agency said on Thursday, as economies continue to battle fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) food price index, which measures monthly changes for a basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy products, meat and sugar, averaged 113.3 points last month December’s 108.6, revised up from 107.5.

Jumps in cereals, sugar and vegetable oils led the rise, the agency said.

Some governments are taking action to tackle surging domestic food prices, although such moves drive global values higher by reducing supplies for international markets.

Tabitha Jelimo preparing porridge at Chebanda village in Tiaty, Baringo County on April 7,2019. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Acute hunger

The consequence is already evident in grain prices, such as corn, hitting multi-year highs.

Grain-consuming giant China is stockpiling supplies, while Argentina has suspended sales of maize for export until February 28. Russia is imposing taxes on exports of wheat, barley and maize.

The World Bank said in December that food price increases, combined with reduced incomes, had aggravated chronic and acute hunger, hitting vulnerable households in almost every country.

The Rome-based FAO said in a statement that worldwide cereal harvests remained on course for an annual record in 2020, but warned of a sharp fall in stocks and signalled unexpectedly large import demands from China.

FAO’s cereal price index climbed 7.1 per cent month-on-month in January, led higher by international maize prices.

They soared 11.2 per cent, some 42.3 per cent above their level a year ago, buoyed in part by purchases by China and lower-than-expected US production. Wheat prices increased 6.8 per cent, driven by strong global demand and expectations of reduced sales by Russia when its wheat export duty doubles in March 2021, FAO said.

Sugar jumped 8.1 per cent, with worries about worsening crop prospects in the European Union, Russia and Thailand, and dry weather in South America, pushing up import demand.

A weak shilling and a host of disruptive factors in some of the country’s key source markets have led to a spike in retail prices. [Standard, File]

The vegetable oil price index increased 5.8 per cent to its highest level since May 2012, driven in part by lower-than-expected palm oil production in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Soyoil prices were fuelled by reduced export opportunities and prolonged strikes in Argentina.

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