Photographer: Dario Pignatelli/Bloomberg

Food Importers Get Sticker Shock as Costs Rise Most in Six Years

  • Food-import costs to rise by most in six years, UN FAO says
  • Poorest and food-deficit nations will be hit hardest this year

The world’s food bill is set to climb by the most in six years as imports and shipping costs increase, with some of the poorest nations being hardest hit.

Food-import costs will jump 11 percent to $1.32 trillion this year, with meat, oilseed and dairy bills rising the most, according to a report from the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization. That means countries will have to spend the most money since 2014 buying food from overseas.

The FAO’s index of food prices has rebounded 16 percent since touching a seven-year low in early 2016, and it’s also getting more expensive to ship in supplies. Since January, a gauge of freight costs has averaged more than twice its level a year earlier. Higher food bills will particularly hurt least-developed, low-income food deficit nations and those in sub-Saharan Africa, where costs will increase by more than the global average, the FAO said.

“Rising and volatile freight rates were a prominent feature in 2016 and continue to be so,” the organization said in the report. A stronger dollar compared to last year is also making it more expensive to import food and is putting a “burden on often scarce foreign exchange reserves,” the FAO said.

This year’s global import bill will still be about 9 percent below 2014’s record, FAO data show. Bumper grain harvests from Russia to the U.S. and Brazil have reduced prices for staple foods and depressed commodity markets.

Separately, the FAO said its index of food prices rose 2.2 percent last month as all food types increased, except sugar.

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