Global Food Prices Surge to Record Highs, U.N. Agency Says

World food prices soared past all-time highs in March as the war in Ukraine begins to affect global markets. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released its report on worldwide food prices for March and found that prices had surged 12.6% from February.

Over the previous year’s report for March 2021, the FAO index has increased by 33.6%. Last month’s report, in which the index was already at its highest point in recorded history, was conducted prior to the war in greater Ukraine. Now that the effects of the war are starting to be felt by the global food market, prices have surged past record highs.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said its Food Price Index, which tracks monthly changes in international prices for a basket of commodities, averaged 159.3 points last month, up 12.6 percent from February.

FAO blamed the war in Ukraine for the rapid price hikes. Russia and Ukraine, who are both among the world’s top exporters of grain, account for a huge share of the globe’s exports in several major commodities, including wheat, vegetable oil and corn. War in what is often referred to as “the breadbasket of Europe” has driven prices of those commodities past record highs. Russia and Ukraine account for roughly 30 percent and 20 percent of global wheat and corn exports, according to the Daily Times.

Vegetable oils recorded the most dramatic price hikes in March after its index increased by 23%. Ukraine is the leading exporter of sunflower oil, which is a household essential for cooking, while Russia trails just behind them. The FAO’s vegetable oil price index has risen by about a third since January.

“This is really remarkable,” said Josef Schmidhuber, deputy director of FAO’s markets and trade division. “Clearly, these very high prices for food require urgent action.”

Prices of sugar and dairy products “also rose significantly” the FAO said. “There is, of course, a massive supply disruption, and that massive supply disruption from the Black Sea region has fueled prices for vegetable oil,” Schmidhuber told reporters.

Other sizable grain exporters such as US, Canada, France, Australia and Argentina are trying to make up for the decreased production. Farmers in the aforementioned countries have struggled to increase grain exports, however, as rising fuel and fertilizer costs are cutting into their own output.

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