Jun 4, 2021 - Economy

Food fears rising


A sales assistant arranges fruit in a supermarket in the Philippines. Photo: Veejay Villafranca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Global food prices aren't leaving any wiggle room for bad harvests or demand spikes.

The state of play: A UN index of food prices "has reached its highest since September 2011, climbing almost 5% last month," reports Bloomberg. Another tracker of "prices from grains to sugar and coffee is up 70% in the past year."

Why it matters: The real threat comes in countries where large portions of the population live close to the edge of hunger, Axios' Bryan Walsh wrote.

  • Even in the U.S., rising prices hit the poorest Americans, who spend more than one-third of their income on food.
  • "The pain could be particularly pronounced in some of the poorest import-dependent nations," Bloomberg reports.

The big picture: COVID-related labor disruptions probably aren't helping, but climate change-related shifts in precipitation and temperatures are expected to lead to more volatile food production in the coming years, Axios' Andrew Freedman tells me.

  • That volatility can destabilize fragile countries. This already played out, studies show, with the Syrian Civil War, which began during a severe drought.
  • A study found that rising temperatures in countries of origin increased the number of people seeking asylum in the EU, Axios Science editor Alison Snyder noted.
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