Global food import costs are expected to rise to a record in 2021 due to robust commodity prices and surging demand during the COVID 19 crisis, the United Nations Food Agency said.
The world's food import bill, including shipping costs, is projected to reach $1.715 trillion this year, from $1.530 trillion in 2020, the food and agriculture organization said in its twice-yearly Food Outlook report on Thursday.
The growth in agricultural trade during the pandemic showed the international nature of food consumption and the resilience of Inelastic markets, but price rises from late 2020 had raised risks for poorer export-reliant countries, said FAO.
Its vegetable price index hit a 10-year high in May, reflecting sharp gains for cereals 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, exceeding levels which it was seen in 2006 - 2008 and 2010 - 2012, during previous food price spikes.
The 3% increase in global food import costs last year had already driven the same volume up for staple food as before.
Exceptions were beverages and fish products that are more sensitive to economic conditions and saw demand curbed by supply chain difficulties, the FAO said.
China's imported earnings have been a driving force in agricultural demand and prices in the past year, partly reflecting Beijing's attempts to rebuild its pig industry after a disease outbreak.
The Chinese maize imports in the upcoming 2021-22 season were expected to jump to 24 million tonnes, keeping China as the world's largest importer after its maize exports are expected to quadruple to 22 million tonnes in 2020 21, according to the FAO forecast.
A recovery in China's pork production was expected to stabilize global trade, offsetting the growth in beef and poultry exports to leave overall meat trade stable this year, the FAO said.