Global food inflation continues to rise for the fourth consecutive month in November, reaching levels not seen in a decade, led mainly by robust demand for wheat and dairy products, according to a new report via the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
FAO's food price index, which tracks monthly changes in the international prices of food commodities, rose 1.2% to 134.4 in November from October, driven by continued demand for food. The index is up 27.3% YoY.
Food prices remain at a decade high and have risen sharply since the beginning of the pandemic, driven by snarled supply chains, harvest setbacks, soaring farm costs, and high demand.
Last month, increases in grains, dairy, and sugar were the primary driver in FAO's food price index. Laggards were meat and vegetable oil.
The FAO's cereal price index averaged 141.5 points in November, up 3.1% from October and 23.2% from the same month last year. Wheat prices are at their highest level since May 2011 due to adverse weather conditions in Australia and potential changes to export rules in Russia.
The dairy price index rose 4.1% to 125.5 points in November. Compared to last year, the index is up 19.1%. "Strong global import demand persisted for butter and milk powders as buyers sought to secure spot supplies in anticipating of tightening markets," FAO said.
Sugar prices averaged 120.7 points in November, up 1.4% from October, reversing most of the previous month's decline. Compared to last year, prices are up a stunning 40%.
Vegetable oil and meat prices were slight down in November but were both up substantially over the year.
The question central banks, governments, commodity traders, and households have on their minds is when do food prices reverse. To answer that question, Judy Ganes, the president of J. Ganes Consulting, recently told Bloomberg that rising food prices should continue into the second half of 2022.
"We're not seeing a turning point just yet, we'll probably see it, my guess is the middle of next year. There's a point where high prices are the best cure for high prices, there's a point where its going to have to resolve itself," Ganes said.
She pointed out rising prices were due to a combination of factors, such as caps on migration, red hot labor market, labor shortages, adverse weather conditions, snarled supply, higher fertilizer prices, and soaring transportation costs.
Ganes said the end to several major droughts and increased rainfall in major producing regions means global food production in 2023-24 will be "much improved."
With at least another year or more of food inflation, Cargill CEO David MacLennan recently changed his mind about "transitory" inflation and now believes it will be more persistent with higher food prices in 2022. He blamed elevated food prices on snarled supply chains, labor shortages, and adverse weather conditions, among other things.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell had to retire the word "transitory" regarding the inflationary environment in an embarrassing move this week. Soaring food prices are unlikely to reverse in early 2022 and are crushing emerging market consumers and the working poor in developed countries.
Almost one year ago, SocGen's Albert Edwards pointed out rising food prices would lead to discontent and social instabilities in the weakest countries.