World’s record food bill is hitting poorer countries

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The world’s food-import bill is set to jump even more than expected to a record this year, increasing the threat of hunger, especially in the poorest nations.

Higher shipping rates and prices of foodstuffs from grains to vegetables are likely to drive the cost of importing food up by 14% to $1.75 trillion, the United Nations (UN) said. It also warned of higher bills as farm inputs get more expensive.

Food prices have climbed to the highest in a decade, further pressuring household budgets strained by the pandemic and rising energy bills. A particular worry is that food-import costs in poor countries are climbing faster than those in developed economies, something that’s becoming an increasing problem in regions that are reliant on shipping in supplies.

Grain prices rallied in the past year as bad weather curbed harvests, freight rates rose and labor shortages hurt supply chains. That’s happened as global hunger hit a multiyear high, while an energy crunch also had a knock-on effect of raising fertilizer prices, giving farmers another headache.

“Food prices will inevitably rise with higher production costs, and do so without significant delays,” the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization said in a report on Thursday. — Bloomberg

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