World prices for food products such as grains and vegetable oils were the highest on record last year, even after falling for nine straight months, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said, as Russia’s war in Ukraine, drought and other factors increased inflation and worsened. hunger all over the world.

The FAO Food Price Index, which tracks monthly changes in international prices of commonly traded food items, fell 1.9% in December from a month earlier, the Rome-based organization said on Friday.

For the full year, he averaged 143.7 points, more than 14% above the 2021 average, which also saw big gains.

The December drop was led by a drop in the price of vegetable oils amid dwindling import demand, expectations of higher soybean oil production in South America and lower crude prices. Cereals and meat also fell, while dairy and sugar increased slightly.

“Calmer food commodity prices are welcome after two very volatile years,” FAO chief economist Máximo Torero said in a prepared statement. “It is important to remain vigilant and to focus strongly on mitigating global food insecurity, as world food prices remain high, with many staple foods near record levels, and with rice prices rising, and there are still many risks associated with future supplies. ”

Last year, the United Nations food price index reached the highest level since its records began in 1961, according to FAO data.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February exacerbated a food crisis because the two countries were the world’s top suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other products, especially to nations in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia already struggling with famine. .

With the disruption of critical supplies from the Black Sea, food prices rose to record highs, increasing inflation, poverty and food insecurity in import-dependent developing nations.

The war also rattled energy markets and fertilizer supplies, both key to food production. That was on top of the weather shocks that have fueled famine in places like the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya are badly affected by the worst drought in decades, with the UN warning that parts of Somalia face famine. Thousands of people have already died.

Wheat and maize prices reached a record high last year, though they fell in December along with the costs of other grains, the FAO said. He said harvests in the southern hemisphere boosted supplies and there was strong competition among exporters.

The organization’s Vegetable Oil Price Index reached an all-time high last year, even as it fell in December to its lowest level since February 2021. Through all of 2022, the Dairy Price Index and the Dairy Price Index FAO meat were also the highest since 1990.