Food Prices: Still Really, Really High

That’s from a new bulletin by the World Bank which shows that food prices today are nearing the record highs reached in 2008.

The Food Price Watch says global food prices in July 2011 remain significantly higher than a year ago. Prices overall remained 33 percent higher than a year ago with commodities such as maize (up 84 percent), sugar (up 62 percent), wheat (up 55 percent) and soybean oil (up 47 percent) contributing to the increase. Crude oil prices are 45 percent higher from July 2010 levels, affecting production costs and the price of fertilizers, which increased by 67 percent over the same period. Prices from April through July settled roughly five percent below the recent spike in February 2011 due to modest declines in grains, fats and oil, and other foods such as meat, fruits, and sugar. However, prices of some commodities remained volatile during this period. For example, maize and wheat prices declined in June and then increased in the first half of July. The price of rice fell from February to May, but has since increased.

These trends are hitting the hardest in the drought and famine stricken Horn of Africa.

In Somalia, prices of locally produced cereals have continued to increase in all regions since October 2010 and have now exceeded their 2008 peak levels. Prices of the two major commodities that are domestically produced, red sorghum and white maize, have increased up to 240 percent and 154 percent respectively. Prices of imported commodities, such as rice, sugar, wheat flour, vegetable oil, and petrol, are also higher than a year ago.

Out of 3.7 million people in crisis in Somalia, 3.2 million are in urgent need and 2.8 million of these people are in the south. Poor farmers with no stock and no means to purchase food are among the worst affected, as are the displaced given their difficulties accessing food. The urban poor are suffering from increases in the cost of living and falling wages.

Global food prices have been on a fairly steady increase since June 2010. Still, you don’t really hear world leaders sounding the alarm too much.  It’s amazing that we don’t quite think of this as a huge global crisis that ought to be immediately remedied.