Rome — - Prices for food commodities like grains and vegetable oils reached their highest levels ever last month because ofand the "massive supply disruptions" it is causing, the United Nations said Friday.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said its Food Price Index, which tracks monthly changes in international prices for a basket of commodities, averaged 159.3 points last month, up 12.6% from February. The February level was the index's highest since its inception in 1990.
FAO said the war in Ukraine was largely responsible for the 17.1% rise in grains, including wheat and others like oats, barley and corn. Russia and Ukraine together account for around 30% and 20% of global wheat and corn exports, respectively.
While predictable given February's steep rise, "this is really remarkable," said Josef Schmidhuber, deputy director of FAO's markets and trade division. "Clearly, these very high prices for food require urgent action."
The biggest price increases in March were for vegetable oils: the vegetable oil price index rose 23.2%, driven by higher quotations for sunflower seed oil. Ukraine is the world's leading exporter of sunflower oil.
"There is, of course, a massive supply disruption, and that massive supply disruption from the Black Sea region has fueled prices for vegetable oil," Schmidhuber told reporters in Geneva.
More "well behaved prices" were the ingredients for rice pudding, he said: rice, dairy and sugar.
The trend has spurred fears of a worldwide hunger crisis, especially across the Mideast and Africa, where some effects are already being felt, Agence France-Presse points out.
Adding to concerns, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Friday that his country's grain harvest this year is likely to be 20% less than last year because of a reduced sowing area due to the war, the Reuters news agency reports.
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