How export limits are worsening global food security

Many countries are trying to limit shipments of agricultural commodities to safeguard local supplies amid inflation concerns

A hand-rickshaw puller waits for customers at a roadside wholesale sugarcane market in Kolkata. India's sugar output is expected to be 25 million tonnes in the season starting from October, up from a previous forecast of 23.7 million tonnes, as heavy monsoon rains have helped boost yields of the unharvested cane crop. Rupak De Chowdhuri / Reuters
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India and Malaysia are among several Asian countries restricting exports of certain key commodities as nations try to safeguard supplies over concerns of food security and inflation.

Thai producers of sugar, chicken and rice look set to benefit as they enjoy strong harvests this year after back-to-back droughts.

Meanwhile, Brazilians faced the highest-ever levels of hunger in the pandemic, disproportionately affecting the poor and women.

In the US, consumer spending held up well despite decades-high inflation, and showed more evidence that they’re dipping into their savings to support purchases. China’s economy remained deep in a slump in May as Covid-19 lockdowns continued to weigh on activity.

Here are some of the latest developments in the global economy:

World

India will restrict sugar exports as a precautionary measure to safeguard its own food supplies, another act of protectionism after banning wheat sales about two weeks ago. The country was the world’s largest sugar exporter after Brazil last year, and counts Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia among its top customers.

The double crises of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s new pandemic lockdowns are jolting the world recovery by exacerbating inflation and hurting growth, research from Bloomberg Economics shows.

Central banks in Pakistan, Ghana, Israel, Nigeria, New Zealand, South Korea and Guatemala hiked interest rates this week.

Policymakers in Russia cut rates in an effort to prop up its economy, but it has still boosted more than lowered rates for the year.

Asia

China’s economy remained deep in a slump in May as lockdowns continued to weigh on activity, and as the threat of Omicron and expanded restrictions dampened sentiment. That’s the outlook based on Bloomberg’s aggregate index of eight early indicators for this month.

A plate of chicken rice, one of Singapore’s most popular meals, is poised to become more expensive after Malaysia moved to restrict exports.

“If it’s persistent and, more worryingly, reflective of more protectionist measures by other countries over food security and inflation concerns, then this could be a lose-lose scenario for everyone,” said Selena Ling, head of treasury research and strategy at Oversea-Chinese Banking.

Thailand — a major exporter of sugar, chickens and rice — looks set to benefit as many of its Asian neighbours limit shipments of agricultural commodities to shelter consumers from surging prices.

The rising food protectionism and price rallies are welcome news for Thai producers who are enjoying strong harvests this year after back-to-back droughts.

Emerging markets

Brazil consumer prices jumped more than forecast on food and transportation costs, as policymakers weigh how much longer they will extend interest rate hikes.

Brazil endured its highest levels of hunger on record during the coronavirus pandemic, a new report said, highlighting the acute struggles facing the poor before elections in Latin America’s largest economy.

Wheat shortages affect Lebanese bakeries — in pictures

US

US inflation-adjusted consumer spending rose in April by the most in three months, indicating households were holding up in the face of persistent price pressures by dipping into savings.

US residential electricity rates have been surging for months and are poised to climb even higher this summer on a combination of tight supplies of natural gas and coal, an unrelenting drought in the Western US, and a nationwide forecast for extreme heat.

Europe

Investments in Germany supported Europe’s largest economy in the first quarter, allowing it to cope with the headwinds caused by the pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

Updated: May 29, 2022, 4:00 AM
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