jclapp1_SERGEY BOBOKAFP via Getty Images_grain SERGEY BOBOK/AFP via Getty Images

The Hunger Profiteers

It is hard to predict when exactly food prices will spike again, but there is little doubt that more shocks will come. The consequences are likely to be compounded if a few companies still hold inordinate power over the world’s food systems.

WATERLOO/EAST LANSING – The COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have caused commodity prices to soar in recent years, severely undermining global food security. Now, global food prices are down from the peaks of a year ago, but no one should be complacent: the world’s food woes are far from over. The risk of additional price volatility remains high.

With Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annulment of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and attacks on export infrastructure in Ukraine, grain prices have ticked upward again. But dysfunctional food markets are the long-term risk. Wheat remains more than twice as expensive as it was before the pandemic. Moreover, food-price inflation is still running above 5% in most developing countries, and as high as 30% in Rwanda and Egypt. Another global food-price spike is likely.

The real problem is that the growing market power of major agribusiness firms is raising the risk that extreme food-price swings will become the norm.

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