World’s Food Bill to Drop Thanks to Cheaper Coffee and Shipping

(Bloomberg) -- Cheaper coffee, oilseeds and shipping costs mean the world’s food import bill is expected to fall for the first time in four years.

The cost of buying food from abroad may drop 2.5 percent to $1.47 trillion this year, according to the the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization. The FAO doesn’t forecast increases for any of the main food groups and coffee, tea, cocoa and vegetable oil prices are expected to fare worst.

World’s Food Bill to Drop Thanks to Cheaper Coffee and Shipping

Lower bills would be good news for consumers who’ve paid more for food in recent years, helping to push up inflation. Costs are now coming down as coffee to grains are pressured by abundant supplies and trade tensions. At the same time, commodity freight costs have fallen almost 50 percent from a July peak amid concerns about worsening prospects for global economic growth.

“Lower unit costs of importing food are likely to offset an expansion in global demand for many foodstuffs, implying that in 2019, more food can be purchased nominally for the same or lower cost,” the FAO said in a report Thursday.

More on commodity and shipping prices
  • The Bloomberg Grains Spot Subindex is near the lowest since 2016 amid ample global supplies.
  • Coffee futures have reached the lowest in more than a decade in New York as the market grapples with a global glut.
  • The Baltic Dry Index, a measure of commodity shipping costs, reached a more than two-year low in February.

Still, it’s a mixed bag for some of the poorest nations, where import bills will range from 3 percent declines to gains of 4 percent. Those countries are likely to need to import more grains because of poor production prospects. The dependence on cereal imports could reach 35 percent of the total food bill for least-developed countries and those in sub-Saharan Africa, the FAO said.

World’s Food Bill to Drop Thanks to Cheaper Coffee and Shipping

The food import bill for last year was revised to $1.51 trillion, the FAO said. Costs peaked at $1.52 trillion in 2014.

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