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Expand chart
S&P Global Market Intelligence; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Crop prices like corn, wheat and soybeans have hit highs not seen in almost a decade. And they’re likely to stay that way for a while, sparking jitters over food inflation.

Why it matters: Higher prices are a boon for farmers following years in the doldrums — and after supply chain chaos early in the pandemic. But they will bleed through to consumers at the grocery store and in restaurants.

  • “We believe we are only in the early innings of a multi-year upcycle for the global agricultural economy. This is due to a combination of supply shocks that has left crop inventories quite lean,” analysts at Putnam Investments wrote in a recent research note.

The backstory: China has soaked up a huge amount of U.S. corn and soybeans since the end of the trade war. It purchased more corn from the U.S. in 2020 than in any year since 2006 — and it's on pace to exceed that amount in 2021, the Putnam analysts write.

  • China also bought more soy from the U.S. than it has since 2016.
  • Bad crop weather in key agricultural areas in recent years has contracted supply, Bloomberg reports.
  • Demand for renewable fuels is growing as the economy reopens, the WSJ notes. Corn is used in ethanol, and soybeans are a feedstock for renewable diesel.

What they're saying: “We are getting close to the point of having to ration demand. Farmers are either running out of crops to sell or waiting for the market to go even higher,” Jacqueline Holland, an analyst at Farm Futures, told Bloomberg.

What's next: The soaring prices will pressure margins for packaged food companies and grocery stores.

  • Already, Hormel, J.M. Smucker and Tyson Foods have raised prices, and others are likely to do the same.

Go deeper

Biden White House jammed on gas prices

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Biden White House increasingly views rising gasoline prices as a source of potential political peril — and is now asking some of the world's biggest oil producers to pump more oil.

Why it matters: This trend, combined with a fragile economic recovery threatened by the Delta variant of the coronavirus, and inflation beginning to bite consumers, could threaten the administration's ambitious congressional agenda for late summer and early fall.

Distrust in political, media and business leaders sweeps the globe

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Trust in government is collapsing, especially in democracies, according to a new global survey.

Why it matters: People also don't think media or business leaders are telling them the truth, and this suspicion of multiple societal institutions is pushing people into smaller, more insular circles of trust.

Great Resignation boosts White House's tech talent hunt

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Biden administration wants to capitalize on the Great Resignation to fill thousands of expected government tech and cybersecurity jobs.

Why it matters: The administration wants to remake how government websites deliver services and improve the nation's cybersecurity, but it will need skilled workers to make it happen.