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Currency depreciations intensifying food, energy crises globally: WB

  • Staff Correspondent
  • 28 October, 2022 12:00 AM
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Currency depreciations intensifying food, energy crises globally: WB

The shrinking value of the currencies of most developing economies is pushing up food and fuel prices in ways that could deepen the food and energy crises that many of them already face, according to the World Bank’s latest Commodity Markets Outlook report.

In US dollar terms, the prices of most commodities have declined from their recent peaks amid concerns of an impending global recession, the report documents.

From the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 through the end of last month, the price of Brent crude oil in US dollars fell nearly 6 percent. Yet, because of currency depreciations, almost 60 percent of oil-importing emerging-market and developing economies saw an increase in domestic-currency oil prices during this period.

Nearly 90 percent of these economies also saw a larger increase in wheat prices in local-currency terms compared to the rise in US dollars.

Elevated prices of energy commodities that serve as inputs to agricultural production have been driving up food prices. During the first three quarters of 2022, food-price inflation in South Asia averaged more than 20 percent.

Food price inflation in other regions, including Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, averaged between 12 and 15 percent.

East Asia and the Pacific has been the only region with low food-price inflation, partly because of broadly stable prices of rice, the region’s key staple.

“Although many commodity prices have retreated from their peaks, they are still high compared to their average level over the past five years,” a release quoted Pablo Saavedra, the World Bank’s Vice President for Equitable Growth, Finance, and Institutions.

“A further spike in world food prices could prolong the challenges of food insecurity across developing countries. An array of policies is needed to foster supply, facilitate distribution, and support real incomes,” the WB official added. Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, energy prices have been quite volatile but are now expected to decline. After surging by about 60% in 2022, energy prices are projected to decline by 11 percent in 2023.

Despite this moderation, energy prices next year will still be 75 percent above their average over the past five years.

The price of Brent crude oil is expected to average $92 a barrel in 2023—well above the five-year average of $60 a barrel. Both natural gas and coal prices are projected to ease in 2023 from record highs in 2022.

However, by 2024, Australian coal and US natural-gas prices are still expected to double their average over the past five years, while European natural gas prices could be nearly four times higher.

Coal production is projected to significantly increase as several major exporters boost output, putting climate-change goals at risk.

“The combination of elevated commodity prices and persistent currency depreciations translates into higher inflation in many countries,” said Ayhan Kose, Director of WB’s Prospects Group and EFI Chief Economist, which produces the Outlook report.

“Policymakers in emerging market and developing economies have limited room to manage the most pronounced global inflation cycle in decades. They need to carefully calibrate monetary and fiscal policies, clearly communicate their plans, and get ready for a period of even higher volatility in global financial and commodity markets,” the official added.

Agricultural prices are expected to decline 5 percent next year. Wheat prices in the third quarter of 2022 fell nearly 20 percent but remain 24 percent higher than a year ago.

The decline in agricultural prices in 2023 reflects a better-than-projected global wheat crop, stable supplies in the rice market, and the resumption of grain exports from Ukraine. Metal prices are projected to decline 15 percent in 2023, largely because of weaker global growth and concerns about a slowdown in China.

The outlook for commodity prices is subject to many risks. Energy markets face significant supply concerns as worries about the availability of energy during the upcoming winter will intensify in Europe.