World food prices near crisis levels

Friday, October 5, 2012
By Paul Martin

Prices driven higher by US drought along with production problems in Russia and other exporting countries

The Guardian
Thursday 4 October 2012

World food prices rose in September and are moving nearer to levels reached during the 2008 food crisis.

The United Nations food agency reported on Thursday that the worst drought in more than 50 years in the United States had sent corn and soybean prices to record highs over the summer, and, coupled with drought in Russia and other Black Sea exporting countries, raised fears of a renewed crisis.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) price index, which measures monthly price changes for a food basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar, rose 1.4% in September, mainly due to higher dairy and meat prices.

“It’s highly unlikely we will see a normalisation of prices anytime soon,” said FAO senior economist Abdolreza Abbassian.

Parmjit Singh, head of the food and drink sector at London law company Eversheds, said higher prices would place further pressure on squeezed international food supply chains.

“Manufacturers and producers will naturally want to pass on increased costs to their clients but they will meet with stiff resistance from retailers who are reluctant to increase checkout prices for increasingly value-conscious customers,” Singh said.

FAO’s index is below a peak reached in February 2011, when high food prices helped drive the Arab spring uprisings in the Middle East and north Africa, but current levels are very close to those seen in 2008, which sparked riots in poor countries.

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