The global food price crisis isn't going away
Global food prices have continued to rise throughout the pandemic, and they're now at close to the highest level they've been in decades.
Why it matters: Beyond the hunger and suffering that comes with costlier food, high prices are driving serious political discontent around the world — and there's little relief in sight.
- 768 million people — nearly 1 in 10 globally — were undernourished in 2020, up 118 million from 2019.
By the numbers: According to data from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), global food prices in August were up 33% from the year before.
- Adjusted for inflation, food is now almost as expensive as it has been since the FAO's Food Price Index began in 1961.
- "Food is more expensive today than it has been for the vast majority of modern recorded history,” Alistair Smith, senior teaching fellow in global sustainable development at Warwick University in the U.K., told Bloomberg.
Context: While no country is exempt from the effects of high food prices — including in the U.S., where prices of meat, poultry, fish and eggs were up 5.9% in August compared to the last year — poor nations bear the brunt.
- Food scarcity in Cuba led to the island country's biggest protests in decades last month, while in South Africa, food riots in July cost retailers $340 million.
Between the lines: While the pandemic is far from the only cause of spiking food prices — rising shipping and fuel costs play a role, as well as extreme weather — it demonstrates the way the economic effects of COVID-19 have fallen disproportionately on those least able to bear them.
- The U.S. was largely able to prevent a hunger crisis of its own in 2020 thanks to vastly expanded financial aid.