The conflict in Ukraine, rising inflation and labor shortages are raising the price of oil and butter, writes the Israeli “The Marker”. However, these are far from the only products that are increasing in price globally. The authors of the article indicate which products are most at risk of price increases and explain the reasons for this.
Let’s start with lettuce: beloved by many people (as well as rabbits), the humble lettuce made headlines last year after it suddenly disappeared from many fast food chains around the world. Bad weather, combined with supply issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, led to shortages and skyrocketing prices.
In Australia, for example, the cheapest iceberg lettuce costs 12 Australian dollars. The local company KFC announced that it will no longer put lettuce leaves in its chicken sandwiches, but a mixture of lettuce and coleslaw. The scandal was so great that the Prime Minister had to intervene. “Cabbage is not a salad, it’s a crazy decision,” he said, adding quite seriously that such a crisis requires the intervention of the state.
A few months later, unprecedented floods inundated the lands of the Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales, after which the prices of many vegetables rose. They were expensive even before the disaster due to labor shortages and high fuel prices.
In the US, lettuce prices have also been rising for a decade, mostly due to natural disasters. But since 2020, the increase is accelerating. In 2012, Americans paid $1.50 for a kilogram of lettuce, and in 2022, the price will already exceed $3. And it keeps getting more expensive. At the beginning of the epidemic, the McDonalds chain removed lettuce from its menu in North America. Many other chains and retailers still don’t have them. A trend has already been noticed: customers of these establishments have begun to buy fewer meals at a time. Inflation may be to blame for this.
In recent months, food prices in Europe have risen significantly due to the conflict in Ukraine. But the most alarming is the increase in the price of butter, without which neither confectioners nor sauce producers can do, which is accepted in European cuisine.
Oil prices have been rising for a long time, and in June they broke all records – in Europe it was sold at an average price of 8 euros per kilogram. Before that, the jump in prices and the increase in demand were also provoked by European bureaucrats: about ten years ago, health officials declared that butter was not worse than margarine, but even better, and its consumption increased. At the same time, demand has almost tripled in China, whose citizens have become fond of butter-rich sweets. Milk production in New Zealand, the main importer to Asia, has been falling, and China has started buying butter from other countries, including Europe.
In 2015, EU officials decided to abolish milk production quotas. Farmers rushed to produce it and flooded the market to the point where it collapsed, causing them to stop milking cows and prices rose again, peaking in 2017. The market managed to stabilize just before the coronavirus hit, which led to the closure of patisseries and cafes, the suspension of tourist visits to farms and the collapse of the entire supply chain. As a result, production fell even more than demand – and prices rose again. And in 2022, the record from 2017 was broken and a liter of milk in the EU already costs 7 euros on average.
The largest importer and consumer of avocados in the world is the United States. In the last 20 years, consumption has quadrupled and continues to grow at 6% per year. In Europe, consumption increased fivefold over the same period. In other parts of the world, avocados are also being consumed more and more.
First of all, many people like the breakfast “guacamole”. Second, based on a number of studies, doctors are trumpeting to everyone that avocados contain a host of vitamins, as well as antioxidants, magnesium, potassium, fiber, healthy fats, and more. That’s more than enough for people in North America to buy avocados from supermarkets, even without considering the rising prices.
Sensing the easy profit, farmers all over the world began to grow this “green gold”. Latin American coffee growers, weary of the volatility of their market, have turned to growing avocados, whose trees are less demanding.
There’s just one problem: avocados may be good for the human body, but they’re bad for the planet’s ecology. The mass planting of avocados in Central America has destroyed large areas of rainforest, and with it the diversity of flora and fauna characteristic of the region. As this leads to soil erosion and deterioration of soil quality, farmers are increasingly using herbicides and pesticides.
Avocados also absorb much more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than other vegetation, and areas of concentrated cultivation in Mexico have seen higher temperatures and less rainfall. Farmers here use up more than 9 billion liters of groundwater per day for irrigation, drying out the region.
As a result, environmentalists have been clamoring for less guacamole, but to no avail: the wholesale price of avocados has risen in 2022 to almost $3,500 a ton (this time due to production cuts in Mexico and California), surpassing the previous record of $3,000 per ton placed in the year of the global pandemic.