The global food crisis is likely to persist, as prices remain elevated as the Russia-Ukraine war enters its second year, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 

The conflict between the world’s largest exporters of wheat and other important crops, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, pushed up the cost of food to record levels early last year.  

Crucial agricultural products, including cereals, dairy and vegetable oils, have recently fallen from their peak about a year ago, but they continue to exceed the average seen in recent years. 

The IMF, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), World Bank, World Food Programme and World Trade Organisation and other institutions have called for a “more concerted action” to address the food crisis. 

They said food inflation remains high in the world and that around 349 million people in 79 countries are facing “acute” food insecurity. The situation is expected to worsen, as the supply of food is forecast to decline to a three-year low this year. 

Heightened food insecurity 

“One year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine upended agricultural commodity markets, food prices remain elevated,” the IMF said in its latest blog. 

“Many vulnerable countries still face heightened food insecurity. Fragile and conflict-affected states, home to1 billion people, are at particular risk.” 

Among those that have been hit particularly hard by food inflation are countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2021, prices in the region jumped by more than 20%, while public debt was approaching 60% of gross domestic product. 

The IMF had forecast that economic growth in Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Comoros, Eritrea, Mali, Nigeria and Zimbabwe would fall below the regional average of 3.6% in 2022. 

FAO reported on Friday that prices continued to fall marginally for the 11th consecutive month in February, bringing the food price index down 18.7% from the peak it reached in March 2022. The decline was driven by vegetable oils, along with dairy and cereals, while sugar and meat prices were little changed. 

“[But] inflation-adjusted prices in February remained above the average level for recent years,” the IMF maintained. 

(Reporting by Cleofe Maceda; editing by Seban Scaria)