World food prices fell slightly last month after hitting a record in March but remain high due to the Ukraine war, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has said.
International sanctions against Russia as well as export flow disruptions resulting from the 24 February invasion have sparked fears of a global hunger crisis.
Russia and Ukraine, whose vast grain-growing regions are among the world’s main breadbaskets, account for a huge share of the globe’s exports in several major commodities, including wheat, vegetable oil and corn.
The FAO’s food price index, which had reported records for both March and February, dipped 0.8% in April compared to the previous month, the agency said in a statement.
“The small decrease in the index is a welcome relief, particularly for low-income food-deficit countries, but still food prices remain close to their recent highs, reflecting persistent market tightness and posing a challenge to global food security for the most vulnerable,” FAO chief economist Maximo Torero Cullen said.
The modest drop was led by vegetable oil prices, with the FAO’s vegetable oil price index down 5.7% in April.
However, the FAO said that prices remain very high amid “uncertainties about export availabilities out of Indonesia, the world’s leading palm oil exporter”.
Indonesia’s decision to suspend palm oil exports in the face of domestic shortages has pushed vegetable oil prices to new highs, further tightening a market already on edge due to the war in Ukraine and global warming.
The index is a measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities.