Unamused Bouche

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What’s going on?

Fresh data out from the United Nations (UN) on Friday showed that food prices jumped to a record high last month.

What does this mean?

The world’s been getting hangry about food prices for a while now: harvests were disrupted by bad weather last year, and those dwindling supplies haven’t kept up with the post-lockdown bounceback in demand. But the Ukraine war has poured fuel on the fire: the country is the top exporter of sunflower oil in the world, and accounts for around 30% of the global wheat trade alongside Russia. That’s to say nothing of the damage the conflict has done to global trade more broadly. Put it together, and a UN index that tracks global food prices climbed 13% higher last month than the month before – meaning it’s now jumped more than 50% since mid-2020.

Why should I care?

Zooming in: The US is mealy-mouthed.

The UN has been vocal about the fact that the situation could get even dicier, especially now that some countries are limiting exports so they can feed themselves. The US, for its part, has floated the idea that Australia and India would be able to cover around half as much of Ukraine and Russia’s wheat output if they just upped exports. As for what it’s planning to do, the country’s reportedly thinking about the possibility of investing something sometime, maybe?

The bigger picture: Cheap and not-so-cheerful.

Brits are feeling the effects: data out last week showed that UK grocery spending was lower last month than it was in March 2021. Shoppers are swapping big-name brands for cheaper alternatives too, with sales of white-label goods on the rise. That might be why Lidl and Aldi – two German discount stores that have made waves in the UK specializing in own-brand products – were among the only retailers to gain market share last month.

Originally Posted April 8, 2022 – Unamused Bouche

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