New research: Local food and fuel prices more than triple in some of the world’s most at risk communities

  • Date: 06/05/2022
  • Author: Jo-Ann Ward

The cost of food, fuel and fertiliser in some of the world’s poorest communities is soaring. Families are spending double, triple and in some cases nearly four times what they were paying before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, new analysis by ActionAid finds.

The average cost of wheat products like pasta has increased by more than 50% in local markets and communities in the 13 countries surveyed. Families in Lebanon, which is heavily dependent on imports from Ukraine and Russia, are spending as much as 275% more than they were at the end of February.

In the Horn of Africa 20 million people are already facing severe hunger due to prolonged drought. Communities in Somaliland are now spending more than double (163%) as much on a loaf of bread. Average prices for cooking oil have increased by over 60%. But, in some areas of Somaliland costs are up by as much as 260%.

On Friday, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) released its latest global food price index, which last month found world food commodity prices reached their highest ever levels.

Download the research “Doubly Devastating” here.

Research Findings

ActionAid’s analysis finds that, at local community level, food and fuel price hikes are far outstripping already record-breaking rises globally*, suggesting the Ukraine war has exacerbated ongoing food and fuel price challenges in communities most impacted by the climate crisis, humanitarian emergencies, and political and economic turmoil. The survey of market traders and community members in 13 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, finds that the cost of essentials have increased by:

  • Fertiliser up by an average of 83% (rising by up to 196% in the Elfeta area of Ethiopia)
  • Cooking oil up by an average of 64% (rising by up to 260% in the villages of Googeysa and Xidhinta in Somaliland)
  • Petrol up by an average of 63% (rising by up to 253% in one area of Myanmar)
  • Cooking gas up by an average of 60% (rising by up to 175% in one area of Zimbabwe)
  • Pasta up by an average of 53% (rising by up to 275% in the Baalbek area of Bekaa district, Lebanon)
  • Bread up by an average of 48% (rising by up to 163% in villages of Ceel-Giniseed and Teysa, Somaliland)

Impact of Families

Mothers reported having to take their children out of school to be able to afford to buy food. And they shared their heartache at only being able to provide one meal a day for their families. In Somaliland, one woman spoke of giving her children black tea to stave off hunger pangs.

Other people said they have become sick from drinking unclean water from ponds. And many families are incurring debt to cover essential expenses such as medical costs, seeds and fertiliser.

The cost of fuel and fertilisers is also rising at an alarming rate.

ActionAid’s survey shows the cost of petrol and cooking gas has gone up by around 60% on average. However, one community in Myanmar reports that the cost of petrol has soared by 253%. Families in Zimbabwe report petrol increases as high as 227% and cooking gas increases up by 175%.

Chemical fertilisers, a key component of industrialised farming systems, require large amounts of fossil fuels for their production. The survey shows that the average price of fertiliser has already increased by more than 80%. However, in one district of Ethiopia prices have gone up by as much as 196%. Planting season is about to begin or already underway in many parts of the world. Crop yields and farming incomes are set to be hit hard in 2022. 

Teresa Anderson, ActionAid International’s global climate justice lead, says:

“The conflict in Ukraine has created a perfect storm of skyrocketing prices for food, fuel and fertiliser, disproportionately affecting local communities who barely have any belt left to tighten.

“Our survey found that in some places, prices are now double, triple or almost four times as much compared to before the war started.

“The world is now on track for a global food crisis that looks set to be far more deadly, devastating and prolonged than that of 2007-08. Governments and international institutions must take urgent action to avert catastrophic hunger on an unprecedented scale.”

Joy Mabenge, Country Director of ActionAid Zimbabwe, says:

“The price increases since the start of the Ukraine war are further eroding living standards and are severely affecting the poorest and most marginalised.”

Many of the countries where the survey was carried out, rely heavily on imported goods, making them hugely susceptible to changes in global markets.

In Somaliland, Maryan Muhumed Hudhun, (pictured below, photo credit ActionAid), a smallholder farmer and mother of six, told ActionAid:

“We don’t produce anything in Somaliland. Whatever food we consume here is made outside, such as rice, pasta or oil.

“Whatever impacts the world will impact us as well. I am worried about not being able to get water, or food even.”

Call for agroecology

ActionAid is calling for the immediate roll out of social protection measures, which target women and girls. These should include cash transfers, food support and free school meals, to assist families most at risk.

To avert dramatic global yield losses later this year from a worldwide lack of fertilisers, governments must rapidly train farmers on agroecological approaches. Agroecology means adopting farming practices that work with nature. This should include using local manure to build soil fertility and reduce reliance on chemical fertilisers.

In the longer term, governments dependent on food imports must also invest in national and regional food reserves. As a result, this will act as buffers and reduce countries’ vulnerability to food shortages and price rises. The global fallout from the Ukraine crisis shows why a just transition to renewable energy and agroecological farming practices is more urgent than ever. We need to address climate change and protect communities from shocks to world food and energy markets. 

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