World food prices rose by 28% in 2021 compared to the previous year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the UN. The FAO Food Price index tracks monthly changes in the international prices of commonly-traded food commodities.

Although December recorded the first drop in prices in four months, the FAO said that overall 2021 had the highest average food prices in a decade.

The FAO Food Price Index for 2021 averaged 125.7 points, which is 28.1% above the previous year. The index averaged 133.7 points in December, a 0.9% drop from November but that was still up 23.1% on December 2020. The December decrease was attributed to a significant fall in international prices for vegetable oils and sugar; only the dairy sub-index increased last month.

Food Prices

In 2021, the cereal price index reached its highest level since 2012 and was 27% higher than 2020. Maize was up 44% and wheat jumped by almost a third, but rice was down by 4%.

Vegetable oil prices reached a record high last year, increasing almost 66% compared to 2020.

However, the FAO noted that the index dropped by 3.3% in December due to weaker quotations for palm oil and sunflower oil; it said this may be linked to concerns surrounding the impact of an increase in Covid-19 cases. Sugar rose to its highest level since 2016, jumping nearly 30% on 2020 prices. Meat prices were almost 13% higher than in 2020 and the dairy price index increased by almost 17% in a year.

The FAO has also warned that the food price index is set to remain volatile over the coming 12 months.

“While normally high prices are expected to give way to increased production, the high cost of inputs, ongoing global pandemic and ever more uncertain climatic conditions leave little room for optimism about a return to more stable market conditions even in 2022," Abdolreza Abbassian FAO senior economist said.