Sunday, July 22, 2012

Emerging Markets and Grain Prices

Nominal grain prices are making new USD highs lately as the drought and heat wave reduce yield estimates. High food prices are believed by some to have been a contributor to the 2011 "Arab Spring" uprisings.
Source: "From QE2 to Arab Spring - a Lesson for the ECB."
Sober Look, Nov 20, 2011
Although the prices we are seeing are not new highs in inflation-adjusted USD, prior price peaks happened in the context of strong EM currencies (weak USD) and robust or improving global growth.

With global growth looking like it is decelerating and EM currencies weak, current prices are signaling new peaks in terms of EM currencies, leading to renewed risk of social unrest as well as putting pressure on government subsidies and poor urban residents who spend a larger portion of their wages on foodstuffs.

Corn, Wheat, Rice, Soy Bean equal;-weighted composite
adjusted for change in EM Currency Index value
While the effect of high food prices will be at least partially offset by resilient oil prices for oil exporting nations, who are ore likely to be food importers, small island nations and Sub-Saharan Africa are particularly at risk.

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