Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living

World Food Prices Soar To 20-Year High

The United Nations reports the prices of food commodities are at an all-time high. Harsh weather conditions around the world could push them even higher.

two food graphs

Photo: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

The FAO Food Price Index (left) is a measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities. The FAO Food Commodity Price Indices (right) show changes in monthly international prices of major food commodities.

Prices for cooking oils, grains, sugar and meat have soared to levels not seen in 20 years. That’s according to a new report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The report measures the price of food commodities by the basket on the world export market. Prices have been on the rise for the past 6 months, ending in December at the new record high, surpassing the previous high of June 2008. The United Nations began tracking prices in 1990.

“We are entering a danger territory,” says FAO economist Abdolreza Abbassian in an interview with The Guardian. And he worries prices could go higher still. Weather conditions like droughts in Argentina and floods in Australia could affect crop yields. This comes after the devastating heat and drought in the summer of 2010 cut Russia’s wheat production by more than one-third.

Poor countries are more affected by fluctuating commodity prices than rich countries because they tend to depend more heavily on food coming in from other places. During the expensive times of 2008, deadly riots in Egypt, Haiti, Somalia and Cameroon were largely blamed on high cereals prices.

And, potentially foreshadowing even more violence to come, young people in Algeria rioted last Friday in response to sky-rocketing prices for sugar, flour, and oil.

More (From Earth Eats): Earth Eats has reported on food insecurity from how to feed the nearly one billion people worldwide fighting hunger daily, to how children in the U.S. are affected, and what community kitchens are doing to help.

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Annie Corrigan

Annie Corrigan is a producer and announcer for WFIU. In addition to serving as the local voice for NPR's Morning Edition, she produces WFIU's weekly sustainable food program Earth Eats. She earned degrees in oboe performance from Indiana University and Bowling Green State University.

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