Apr 8, 2022 - World

Russian invasion of Ukraine fuels record food prices

: Farmer Morda Vasyl drives a tractor pulling a planter with sugar beet seeds on the Zahidnyi Bug Farm on March 26, 2022 in Humnyska, Ukraine.
Planting sugar beet seeds on the Zahidnyi Bug Farm in Humnyska, Ukraine, on March 26. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Prices for grains, vegetable oils and other food commodities soared to the highest levels on record last month, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said Friday.

Driving the news: The organization's Food Price Index, which tracks monthly changes in the international prices of a basket of commonly traded food commodities, averaged 159.3 points in March. That's up 12.6% from February, when the index reached its highest level since its inception in 1990.

  • Russia's invasion of Ukraine largely drove the 17.1% increase in the prices of grains, including wheat, FAO said.
  • The price index for vegetable oils — the biggest price increase tallied — rose 23.2%, "driven by higher quotations for sunflower seed oil, of which Ukraine is the world’s leading exporter," FAO notes.
  • Russia and Ukraine together accounted for around 30% and 20% of global wheat and maize exports, respectively, over the past three years.

The big picture: The war in Ukraine has also led to food shortages in the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia, where UNICEF is warning of "unprecedented hikes in food prices coupled with low purchasing power."

  • "The number of malnourished children is likely to drastically increase," Adele Khodr, UNICEF's regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement.

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