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‘Recipe for disaster’: Grocery prices hit 10-year high

·3-min read
Woman in supermarket aisle holding empty grocery basket.
COVID-19 has exacerbated a global hunger crisis, warns World Vision. (Image: Getty).

Australian grocery prices have risen 3.5 per cent since February 2020, meaning the average person now needs to do one hour of work to cover the price hike, a new report from World Vision has found.

However, Australia’s grocery price pain pales in comparison to soaring worldwide food prices, the humanitarian aid organisation found in its Price Shocks report, released on Wednesday.

Food prices hit a 10-year high in May 2020, and have hardly slid since then, World Vision found.

In its new analysis, the organisation looked at how a basket of food including rice, wheat flour, raw sugar, corn cobs, eggs, cooking oil, raw chicken, tomatoes, milk and bananas have changed in price since February last year.

One of the world’s poorest countries, Togo, has seen the price of this basket of food increase 56.9 per cent, while in Myanmar it has increased 53.5 per cent.

Image: World Vision.
Image: World Vision.

In South Sudan, people need to work eight days to cover the increased price of groceries, and in Syria people have to work three days.

How long it takes to pay for a basket of food around the world:

  • 1 hour of work in Australia

  • 1.5 day’s work in Kenya

  • 2 days’ work in Rwanda

  • 2 days’ work in Mauritania

  • 3 days’ work in Mozambique

  • 3 days’ work in Ethiopia

  • 3.5 days’ work in Uganda

  • 5.5 days’ work in Burundi

  • 6 days’ work in Chad

  • 6 days’ work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

  • 8 days’ work in South Sudan

In Afghanistan, the price of bananas makes up around 19 per cent of an average daily wage, but in Chad that increases to 61 per cent.

Maize prices are also 66 per cent higher than they were in January 2020, while rice prices increased 11.8 per cent, oranges by 22 per cent, cheese by 17.4 per cent and apples by 12.5 per cent, according to the World Bank.

Pandemic takes prices to decade-high

Conflict is the number one driver of food insecurity, but global grocery prices hit a 10-year high during the pandemic. The world is now experiencing a worsening hunger crisis, World Vision said.

In Africa, the pandemic simply worsened a food crisis partly caused by climate change, flooding and a major locust outbreak in 2020.

“Job losses and lower incomes from the pandemic are forcing millions of families to skip meals, go for cheaper, less nutritious food, or go without food altogether,” World Vision Australia CEO Daniel Wordsworth said.

“And this is not only about hunger or malnutrition – it’s also about how families cope, how they resort to desperate measures such as child marriage and child labour to put food on the table. It’s a recipe for disaster.”

Food prices peaked in May 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic’s following job losses and disrupted nutrition services posing further challenges.

This was compounded by hamstrung the global production, processing, transport and supply industries, World Vision said.

“Global food prices have increased 30-40 per cent since COVID-19. Between May 2020 and May 2021, food prices increased in every consecutive month,” World Vision said in its report.

“While the change in global food prices is concerning, the primary risk to food security and price inflation is at the country level.”

This is of particular concern for poorer countries where food accounts for bigger slices of household budgets.

World Vision is now calling for the Australian Government to commit $150 million to famine-prevention.

“Together, we can prevent the worst of this hunger crisis. But we can’t do this alone,” Wordsworth said.

“That’s why we’re asking the Australian Government to join with us and fund this famine-prevention package, because there’s no place for famine in the 21st century.”

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