Food Prices Hit Two-Decade High, Threatening the World’s Poor

The I.M.F.’s data shows that average food inflation across the world reached 6.85 percent on an annualized basis in December, the highest level since their series started in 2014. Between April 2020 and December 2021, the price of soybeans soared 52 percent, and corn and wheat both grew 80 percent, the fund’s data showed, while the price of coffee rose 70 percent, due largely to droughts and frost in Brazil.

While food prices appear set to stabilize, events like a conflict in Ukraine, a major producer of wheat and corn, or further adverse weather could change that calculation, Mr. Bogmans said.

The effects of rising food prices have been felt unevenly around the world. Asia has been largely spared because of a plentiful rice crop. But parts of Africa, the Middle East and Latin America that are more dependent on imported food are struggling.

Countries like Russia, Brazil, Turkey and Argentina have also suffered as their currencies lost value against the dollar, which is used internationally to pay for most food commodities, Mr. Bogmans said.

In Africa, pandemic restrictions and conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan and Sudan have disrupted transportation routes and driven up food prices, while bad weather and economic mismanagement have also taken a toll.

Joseph Siegle, the director of research at National Defense University’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies, estimated that 106 million people on the continent are facing food insecurity, double the number since 2018.

“Africa is facing record levels of insecurity,” he said.

The overall impact has been less severe in the United States, where food accounts for less than one-seventh of household spending on average, and inflation has become broad-based, spilling into energy, used cars, dishwashers, services and rents as price increases reach a 40-year high.

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