Expensive fertilizers are just one of many factors that have driven food prices to a record.
In response, rice farmers across Asia are scaling back usage of the nutrients, threatening harvests of a staple that feeds half the world.
The repercussions could be huge: The International Rice Research Institute predicts that yields could drop 10% in the next season, causing a loss of 36 million tons of rice, or the equivalent of feeding 500 million people.
That could exacerbate food inflation that’s contributing to turmoil gripping developing nations such as Egypt, Tunisia and Sri Lanka.
Food prices are also being buoyed by high shipping costs, which is bad news for grain-importing countries in places like Africa and Asia.
The International Chamber of Shipping said about 80 to 100 ships have been unable to leave Ukrainian waters for almost two months due to underwater mines and military blockades.
Bulk freight rates are rising as owners and charterers expect ships will be tied up for longer periods.
And that’s at a time when many importers are struggling to afford to buy enough grain.
More Food for Thought
The quality of Indian wheat — which has put off some buyers in the past — will be crucial as the country’s grain becomes competitive for the first time in years as the Ukraine war upends global trade flows.
In Canada, where drought pummelled harvests last year, snow now threatens to delay crop plantings.
On the other hand, the wintry weather there should mean more maple syrup because farmers can tap trees for longer.
And prices of fish crackers, a popular side dish in Indonesia, are set to surge as it becomes more expensive to make them.
Fake Goods Market Worth More Than Ireland’s Economy
Shoes, clothing, handbags, electronics: While trading items infringing on international intellectual property laws is illegal, the corresponding market has been bustling over the last couple of years.
According to data from the Global Trade in Fakes report by the OECD and EUIPO, trading with counterfeit goods amounted to roughly $449 billion in 2019.
As the chart illustrates, selling fake sneakers, watches and clothes is about as lucrative as running a mid-sized European country.
For example, Ireland’s economy generated approximately $431 billion according to OECD data, while Portugal claimed 7th place among the organisation’s member states with $372 billion.
Interestingly, the market size of the trade with fake goods is also in roughly the same ballpark as Hong Kong’s GDP of $466 billion, which is itself responsible for around 20% of the value of seized items between 2017 and 2019.
In that period, the former and China combined account for almost 80% of volume and around 90% of value of trade in fakes.
Turkey, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates placed 3rd, 4th and 5th in terms of value, respectively, while Turkey stood out due to its contribution of roughly 10% to the total volume of seized goods.
The authors of the report go on to note that this doesn’t necessarily mean that the fakes originated in these economies, but rather that these states also could have served as a point of transit for said items.
According to the publication, the trade with counterfeit or pirated goods made up 2.5% of the world trade and roughly 6% of imports into the European Union in 2019.
Even though the report doesn’t give concrete numbers, the global pandemic also impacted this specific market, with border closings and limited production capacities leading to an increased influx of counterfeit pharmaceuticals and personal protective equipment like masks, gloves and sanitizers.