Home Business Rising prices in poor countries: towards a return of food riots?

Rising prices in poor countries: towards a return of food riots?


The return of inflation is very bad news for people in the poorest countries, as world food prices have increased by an average of 28% in 2021, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. agriculture (FAO).

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This calculation is made from the variation in the international prices of a basket of basic food products. The price of these foodstuffs is now close to its record level recorded in February 2011.

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Cereals up 27%, oil 66%

The vegetable oil price index thus jumped by nearly 66% compared to 2020, reaching its highest level ever recorded, detailed the FAO on January 6th. The price of cereals increased by 27%, that of sugar by 30%, that of meat by 13% and dairy products by 17%.

This increase is explained by a disorganization of the distribution circuits and by an increase in demand in 2021. And the year 2022 opens with equally negative perspectives: the high cost of energy, the ongoing global pandemic and increasingly uncertain weather conditions “leave little room for optimism about a return to more stable market conditions”, said Abdolreza Abbassian, senior economist at the FAO.

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Fertilizers on the rise

A further increase in 2022 could come, in particular, from the effects of the increase in fertilizers which has not yet been fully integrated. “In 2021, they increased by around 230%”, notes François Chareyron, manager at Lombard Odier, much more than food. This means that part of the additional costs have been absorbed by the producers and that they should pass this on to the price of the commodities with some delay.

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This inflationary surge is particularly difficult to bear in low-income countries, where the cost of food can represent, on average, up to 50% of the household budget, compared to less than 10% in developed countries. This price increase comes as the number of malnourished people was already increasing in 2020, with around 118 million more.

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12% of the world’s population food insecure

In 2020, malnutrition already concerned around 800 million people, according to the FAO, including 418 million in Asia and 282 million in Africa. And nearly 12% of the world’s population (928 million people) was severely food insecure in 2020, 148 million more than in 2019.

The rise in food prices observed in 2021 could further increase these figures and reduce the chances of reaching “zero people suffering from hunger” in 2030, which is one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. This increase raises fears of the return of the food riots, troubles that the world had known from 2008, during the last period of rising food prices. They notably led to the “Arab Spring”, a set of popular protests of varying magnitude, from December 2010.

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