Against expectations, global food prices have tumbled

Six months after Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine, an inflationary shock is still ripping through boardrooms, finance ministries and households, with European natural-gas prices surging again on August 22nd owing to fears of further disruptions to supply from Russia. But in one crucial area, prices have come back to Earth. The cost of grains, cereals and oils, staples of diets around the world, have returned to levels last seen before the war began.

Russia and Ukraine are agricultural powerhouses—until recently, the world’s largest and fifth-largest exporters of wheat and two largest exporters of sunflower oil. It was not, therefore, a surprise that food prices surged in February and March, driven by fears that exports would be disrupted by war; indeed, the worry was that shortages would persist, decimating grain stocks and causing mass starvation.

That terrible outcome now appears to have been been avoided. Last week wheat futures in Chicago, for delivery in December, dropped…

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