Why are global food prices going up?

STORY: Most people in most places around the world will have noticed that the cost of even the most basic food ingredients have increased. But why, and why now?

Global food prices started to go up in mid-2020 when lockdowns closed businesses, strained supply chains and led consumers to stockpile.

Since then, there have been problems with key crops globally.

Brazil, the world's top soybean exporter, suffered from severe drought in 2021. China's wheat crop has been among the worst ever this year.

Food prices hit an all-time record in February and March, hastened by the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Russia and Ukraine account for nearly a third of global wheat and barley, and two-thirds of the world's sunflower oil. Ukraine is the world's number 4 corn exporter.

Concerns about food security have led some countries to hoard staples.

Indonesia banned most exports of palm oil in late April to ensure domestic supplies.

Higher vegetable oil prices have driven up broader food costs.

The people most affected by higher food prices live in the developing world, where a larger percentage of income is spent on food.

But even in places like the U.S. food prices in March accounted for the greatest share of inflation since 1981, according to Fitch Ratings.

Shop prices in Britain surged in April at the fastest rate in more than a decade.

It is hard to say, when things will get better.

Agricultural production depends on hard-to-predict factors like weather.

As the climate warms, extreme conditions pose another risk to crops.

The UN says the problem of global food security is unlikely to be solved without restoring Ukrainian agricultural production.

The conflict is also to blame for a sharp rise in fertilizer prices, as countries avoid buying from key producers Russia and Belarus.

That could discourage farmers from applying adequate crop nutrients to their fields, bringing down yields and prolonging the crisis.

The World Bank expects agricultural prices to fall in 2023 if there are increased crop supplies from Argentina, Brazil and the U.S.

But that’s by no means guaranteed.