Food prices in Pakistan rose 14.8% in May while the average inflation rate for July-May period of the current fiscal year came in at 8.83%, according to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics. Meanwhile, global food prices have surged by 40% in May, the highest rate in a decade, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Poor harvest due to bad weather and COVID19 pandemic-related disruptions in production and distribution are being blamed.
|Global Food Prices Soaring. Source: FAO via Financial Times|
In Pakistan, chicken prices shot up by 60%, followed by 55% increase in prices of eggs, 31% rise in prices of mustard oil and wheat prices were up by 30% year over a year, according to the PBS. Globally, prices of cereals (including wheat) jumped 37%, vegetable oil 124%, meat 10% and sugar 57%.
|Food Items Seeing Double Digit Price Surges. Source: Bloomberg|
Higher imports of food items at high prices and increased shipping costs have added to Pakistan's food inflation woes. Among the factors contributing to elevated food prices are drought in South America and record purchases by China. Cooking oils have soared too on demand for biofuel.
“We have very little room for any production shock. We have very little room for any unexpected surge in demand in any country,” Abdolreza Abbassian, senior economist at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, warned in a phone interview with Bloomberg. “Any of those things could push prices up further than they are now, and then we could start getting worried.”
Developing countries such as Pakistan where an average consumer spends 40% or more on food will be particularly hit by surging food prices. A jump of 37% in cereals is of special concern because people in poor nations get more than 50% of their daily caloric intake from cereals. Early reports indicate that Pakistan is seeing a record production of wheat with an increase of two million tons to 27.3 million tons from 25.3 million tons last year.
|Caloric Intake From Cereals. Source: Bloomberg|
In West Africa, the prices of staples are up 40% over a five-year average. Countries such as Nigeria, are experiencing food inflation of 23%, the highest level in 15 years, according to the UN World Food Programme. The WFP also warned of vulnerable countries faced with soaring prices, including Lebanon, where food inflation soared to 400% last year on the back of a currency crisis, the pandemic and the after-effects of the Beirut port explosion. Food price inflation in Lebanon is still more than 200%. Countries such as Syria and Sudan are also struggling with food inflation of more than 200 per cent, the WFP said. The impact will be worsening poverty and hunger and slower recovery from the pandemic, according to the Financial Times.
|Debt-to-GDP Increase During Pandemic. Source: Business Standard|
Pakistan is among world's top 10 food producing countries. After a wheat and sugarcane shortfall last year, there are reports of record production of wheat and corn in Pakistan this year. Higher domestic production will hopefully help contain food price inflation in coming months,
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