The value of global food imports is projected to be up 12% in 2021 due to surging commodity prices and robust demand during the Covid-19 crisis, according to the FAO. The world’s food import bill, including shipping costs, is estimated to reach US$1.7 trillion this year, from $1.5 trillion in 2020. Growth in agricultural trade during the pandemic showed the inelastic nature of food consumption and the resilience of international markets, but price rises since late 2020 were raising risks for poorer import-reliant countries.
The FAO monthly food price index hit a 10-year high in May, reflecting sharp gains for cereals, vegetable oils and sugar.
The FAO said a separate index of food import values, including freight costs that have also soared, reached a record in March this year, surpassing levels seen during previous food price spikes in 2006-2008 and 2010-2012.
A strong volume increase for staple food imports last year had already driven up global import costs 3% to a record.