World food prices hit record high in 2022: FAO

World food prices fell for a ninth month in a row in December but hit their highest level on record for the full year in 2022, UN data showed Friday.

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Food prices soared to a monthly record high in March after Russia invaded agricultural powerhouse Ukraine, a major supplier of wheat and cooking oil to the world.

But prices have dropped since then, with more relief brought by a deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations in July that lifted a Russian naval blockade on Ukrainian grain exports.

The Food and Agriculture Organization said Friday its price index, which tracks the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities, fell to 132.4 points in December, a 1.9% drop from November.

It was also one percent lower than in December 2021.

But the index was 14.3% higher overall in 2022 compared to the previous year as it reached an all-time high of 143.7 points.

“Calmer food commodity prices are welcome after two very volatile years,” FAO chief economist Maximo Torero said in a statement.

“It is important to remain vigilant and keep a strong focus on mitigating global food insecurity given that world food prices remain at elevated levels,” he said.

Torero said many staples are near record highs, with prices of rice rising and “still many risks associated with future supplies”.

World prices of maize were 24.8% higher on average in 2022 than in 2021, according to the FAO. Wheat was 15.6% more expensive.

But maize prices fell in December, mostly due to “strong competition” from Brazil, the FAO said.

Wheat was also down for the month “as ongoing harvests in the southern hemisphere boosted supplies and competition among exporters remained strong”.

The FAO’s vegetable oil price index reached a new record high in 2022 but fell 6.7% month-on-month in December to its lowest level since February 2021.

Dairy and meat prices hit their highest levels since 1990, the agency said. While meat prices fell 1.2% in December, those of dairy rose 1.1% for the month.

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