Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Soaring Food Inflation and Commodity Prices Cause People To Change Diets - And Go Hungry

If you have been grocery shopping in recent months you know all about saoring food prices (in spite of "official inflation", being so low).

A recent 17-nation survey 16,421 people surveyed by GlobeScan conxluded that soaring food prices and health concerns are prompting people around the world to change what they eat.

A whopping 53 per cent said say they're no longer eating the same foods they did two years ago. 40% of those say some of the food they used to eat is now too expensive, while one-third changed their diets for health reasons.

Robert Fox, Oxfam Canada's executive director, says "The rising cost of food is pushing more people into hunger, with women and girls representing most of the world's hungry,"

Vancouver Sun: "The Food and Agriculture Organization's food price index, which measures monthly changes in international prices of a basket of food commodities, has risen 37 per cent in the past year. Cereal prices have shot up 69 per cent, meat prices are up 20 per cent and dairy prices are 10 per cent higher.

While Canada wasn't included in the GlobeScan survey, a related poll done by EKOS for Oxfam Canada found that two-thirds of Canadians have changed their eating habits in the past two years, half for health reasons.

Just 17 per cent cited cost as their reason for changing their diets, though that rises to 27 per cent among women between 34 and 55. But two-thirds of Canadians say they're extremely concerned about rising food prices, the EKOS poll found.

Canadians haven't yet felt the full impact of raw food price increases, in part because of our strong dollar, which has gained seven per cent in value in the past year.

But grocery prices have gone up in recent months, said Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns. After edging up just one per cent in 2010, groceries in Canada cost 3.7 per cent more in April than they did a year earlier.

And, Porter warned, prices will continue to rise because it takes about six to 12 months for changes in the cost of raw materials to work their way down to the grocery store level. "We think we're going to ultimately get about five-to sevenper-cent food price inflation later on this year."

The good news is that the rise in the FAO indicator has flattened out in the past month or so, which suggests the increase in food commodity prices may have peaked. "We're not seeing big relief yet, but we're not seeing a further run-up," Porter said.

On average, Canadians spend less than 10 per cent of their income on food. But that can reach 80 per cent in developing countries, according to Oxfam. In the GlobeScan poll, Kenyans reported the biggest shift in eating patterns, with three in four saying they were no longer eating the same foods they did two years ago. Nearly 80 per cent changed their diet because of rising food costs.

Food price increases were also a significant factor in altering diets in Mexico, Guatemala, Pakistan, Tanzania, Spain and Britain".

We track all commodity ETFs live here.

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