top of page

The blocking of Ukraine’s ports has exacerbated issues related to already-rising food prices. By early 2022, the world appeared to be entering a cost-of-living crisis - with serious implications for food security. The FAO Food Price Index, a measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities, had been rising relentlessly since mid-2020. It reached a new all-time high in February 2022, the month when Russia invaded Ukraine, then rose sharply in March, before retreating only slightly in April. Prices for vegetable oils and other food stocks soared, as wheat inventories thinned. Prices for fuel and fertilizer have also spiked, risking substantial reductions in crop yield and quality. Drought conditions are exceptional in several parts of the world, and logistical issues have only mounted as Ukrainian ports remain blocked and war-related hazards limit Black Sea shipments, obstructing vital food and fertilizer exports. Trade restrictions, which already affect 17% of the food traded globally, could add to upward-spiralling prices. Even before price spikes in global markets fully trickled down to domestic markets, domestic food inflation hit alarming levels in many places - 15% or more in 40 countries. The rising cost of food and other essential goods comes at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic continues to depress incomes (the global economic recovery was being disrupted by new variants prior to the invasion of Ukraine). The combination of reduced incomes and cost-of-food increases can be life threatening for poor households in low-income countries - which spend the lion's share of their income on food (63% on average). This has prompted protests around the world; every percentage-point increase in global food prices is estimated to leave 10 million more people in extreme poverty. As high food prices made matters impossible for people already struggling to afford food in normal times, further price spikes triggered by the war in Ukraine threaten to push 47 million people into acute hunger in 2022 - up from a baseline of 276 million people earlier in the year. High prices also constrain humanitarian responses; procurement costs for the UN World Food Programme, the world’s largest humanitarian organization, are projected to increase by 44% relative to the 2019 average.

The Cost of Rising Food Costs

KEY TRENDS

Access to food is a priority