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Global food prices hit their highest level ever in March following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the UN reported.

According to the monthly food price index released by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on Friday, cooking oils, grains and meats hit all-time highs and food costs a third more than the same period last year.

The Russian-Ukrainian war disrupted Black Sea exports of crucial commodities from a region that produced more than a quarter of global wheat exports.

The war has helped push grain prices up 17% in the past month, with port closures limiting wheat and maize exports from Ukraine. Russian exports have also been hampered by financial and maritime problems.

Global wheat prices climbed 19.7% in March, while maize prices rose 19.1% month-on-month, hitting a record high along with those of barley and sorghum.

The FAO said these problems are likely to persist, leading to higher prices, lower stocks and uncertainty in the wheat market in the future.

“Higher prices are of particular concern for countries already grappling with other crises, including conflict, natural disasters, economic conditions or, as is often the case, some combination of these,” he said. said an FAO spokesperson, adding that countries with low incomes and food shortages may struggle to pay higher prices.

“[Price] increases are greatest in countries where the share of disposable income spent on food is highest. In these cases, the most vulnerable are likely to skip meals, buy less nutritious foods, or use other coping strategies, which will have longer-term effects on their health and well-being. .

Joseph Glauber, a senior researcher at the International Food Policy Research Institute, said before the invasion prices were already near record highs due to tight global supplies.

“Projected stock levels were already low compared to recent years, which means that there is little supply available to cushion the effects of reduced exports from the Black Sea,” he said. declared.

IFPRI estimates that Ukraine and Russia accounted for 12% of calories traded globally.

Glauber said food price volatility was being felt everywhere. Countries that were particularly dependent on wheat from Russia and Ukraine may have to look to the EU, US, Australia, Canada and Argentina for wheat supplies.

“Many of these countries are in North Africa and the Middle East, where wheat often accounts for up to 35% of total calories consumed and the majority of wheat is imported, much of it from the Black Sea,” said he declared.

The Black Sea region has also been a crucial source of sunflower oil and curbing exports has driven vegetable oil prices up by almost a quarter since February. Prices also increased for palm, soybean and rapeseed oils due to increased demand.

Earlier this week, the World Food Program said the effect of the export blockade would affect several East African countries, including Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan – countries experiencing already severe drought and conflict.

The WFP said the price of local food had risen by a quarter, on average, compared to last year, but had risen to 92% in Sudan.

He also warned that East African countries are entirely dependent on fertilizer imports, of which Ukraine and Russia are also a key source, and that disruptions could impact local production and drive up food prices even more.

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