With the heat-wave in Southern Europe, the missing Monsoon, and the earth-cracking drought in the US, it is no surprise that corn, wheat, and soymeal prices are soaring as crop yields plunge. The level of inventories were already low going in and as Bloomberg notes, consumers around the world will feel the effect of higher food prices as the worst drought in 50 years impact the world's largest exporter of corn and wheat (and 3rd largest of soymeal). Within Asia, Korea and Malaysia will be most adversely affected, considering direct effects referenced in per capita and GDP terms. Indonesia and Japan are Asia’s largest importers of wheat, both importing roughly 5.7 million metric tons on average. China is by a wide margin the region’s largest importer of soy, with average imports of 49.9 million in the last five years. The impact on headline inflation in Asia will be stronger for the economies with lower per capita incomes — Vietnam, India, the Philippines and Indonesia — where food and food products account for a larger share of the typical consumption basket. Even in places where incomes are high, such as Singapore, food accounts for 22 percent of the consumer price index.
And while central bankers tend to view these price shocks as 'transitory' and are less likely to 'act' and paradoxically while food price inflation may raise inflation expectations, in a world of slow/low growth, it may have a rather deflationary impact as finite spending is redistributed from discretionary to staples.