Global food prices are at the highest in more than six years. Prices are driven by a jump in the cost of everything from soybeans to palm oil because of demand from China. Vulnerable supply chains and adverse weather are factors as well. Inflation is putting another squeeze on consumers, already hurting from pandemic-induced recession, as well as falling currencies in some countries.
Since the beginning of this year, the protests in Sudan have intensified, and concerns about access to food have led to conflicts between Lebanon and Tunisia, while the Arab Spring uprising ten years ago was zero. In India, farmers resisted efforts to lower prices. Russia and Argentina restrict crop transportation to keep domestic prices down. Even wealthy countries like the United Arab Emirates are considering setting price caps on certain foods.
“These price spikes are destabilizing, not just because they induce a lot of hardship on communities and households, but also because there is this expectation that the government will do something about it,” said Cullen Hendrix, non-resident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a Washington-based think tank. “The implications are going to last longer and beyond the pandemic.”
Of course, the impacts are disproportionate. In rich Western countries, it might just be a case of switching product brand. In the poorest nations, it can mean the difference between sending a child to school or out to earn money.
Photo source: Dreamstime.com