This is a record which the planet would have done well without.
In 2022, world prices for staple foods - wheat, corn, vegetable oils, etc. - have reached unprecedented levels, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reported on Friday.
The invasion of Ukraine by Russia, respectively the world's fifth and largest wheat exporter - or 30% of the planet's supply - has plunged food markets into an era of uncertainty since February.
A few days after the start of the war on February 24, world prices had thus reached their “highest levels ever recorded”.
For the whole of 2022, the FAO food price index (which tracks the variation in international prices of a basket of basic products) averaged 143.7 points, "i.e. 14.3% more than the average value for 2021,” the organization said on Friday.
The previous record dates back to 2011, marked by a food crisis and food riots in Africa, at 131.9 points.
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In detail, wheat, corn and sunflower were particularly affected by these historic increases.
On the European market, wheat rose to 438 euros per ton on May 16, after having started the year around 270 euros.
With still extraordinary volatility, it stood at around 315 euros at the end of December, an increase of nearly 17% over one year.
As Ukraine is also a major producer of sunflower oil, vegetable oil prices also broke a record for the year.
Those of meat and dairy products, meanwhile, reached “their highest annual levels since 1990”.
As a result, inflation soared throughout Europe and the rise in prices was felt by consumers in the Old Continent.
In France, it reached 5.9% in December, marking time slightly compared to November, but food prices continued to rise in France.
A rebound in inflation is even forecast by INSEE for the year 2023.
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Although inflation remains high, the prices of basic food products began to fall again in April, and have been falling steadily for nine months.
The FAO index for December 2022 even fell below its level of a year ago.
In detail, the vegetable oil price index fell by 6.7% compared to November, falling to its lowest level since February 2021. That of cereals fell by 1.9% over the same period. .
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Tension subsided more broadly in July after the signing of an agreement to resume Ukrainian wheat exports to the Black Sea.
A "corridor" ardently negotiated with the help of Turkey under the aegis of the UN, which made it possible to leave the silos 15 million tons of cereals and oilseeds.
"It's a good thing that food prices are calming down after two very volatile years," said Máximo Torero, FAO's chief economist.
But it is essential to "remain vigilant and focus on alleviating global food insecurity", he warned.
While world wheat stocks are at their highest among exporters, 35% of them are in Russia.
The country, which has harvested more than 100 million tonnes of wheat, thus confirms its position as arbiter.
However, the war in Ukraine has highlighted the weaknesses and dependencies, particularly in poor countries.
Added to this is the fact that world prices “remain at high levels” and many commodities are near record highs.