Russia's war raises cooking oil prices worldwide

Istanbul's Tarihi Balikca attempted to absorb the rising cost of sunflower oil that its cooks used to fry fish, mussels, and squid for months.

Russia's war raises cooking oil prices worldwide

However, in April 2019, oil prices were nearly four times more than in 2019. The restaurant increased its prices. Even long-standing customers now look at the menu before they walk away.

"We resisted. "We resisted. We saw no improvement," Mahsun Aktas (waiter and chef at the restaurant) said. "The customer can't afford it."

The global cooking oil market has been experiencing an increase in prices since the COVID-19 pandemic started. This is due to a variety of reasons. These include poor harvests in South America, virus-related labor shortages, and the steadily growing demand from the biofuels industry. The war with Ukraine, which supplies almost half the world's sunflower oils, has disrupted shipments and sent cooking oils prices spiraling.

This is the latest result of Russia's war and another rising cost that pinches households and businesses. This conflict has also fueled already high-food and high energy costs , thereby affecting the most vulnerable people.

Food supply is especially at risk because of the war in Ukraine has disrupted vital grain shipments from Russia and caused a global fertilizer shortage which will lead to less affordable and more expensive food. The decrease in wheat and barley availability raises the risk of food shortages and political instability across many countries, including those in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, where many rely on cheap noodles and subsidized bread.


 

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, vegetable oil prices reached a record high in February and then rose by 23% in March. According to the World Bank, soybean oil was selling for $765 per ton in 2019. It averaged $1,957 per ton in March. The prices of palm oil rose 200% in March and will rise further after Indonesia, one the top producers in the world, banned cooking oil exports on Thursday to preserve domestic supply.

After panic buying and fears of shortages, some supermarkets in Turkey have set limits on how much vegetable oil they allow their customers to purchase. Limits have been set by some stores in Spain, Italy, and the United Kingdom. German shoppers have been posting photos of empty shelves that used to house sunflower oil and canola oils on social media. A tweet from Kenya's main power company stated that thieves were stealing toxic fluid from the electrical transformers and selling it as cooking oil.

Glaudina Nyoni scans prices at a Harare supermarket to see if vegetable oil prices have increased by almost two-fold since the outbreak war. A 2-liter bottle can now be purchased for as high as $9.

Emiwati runs a food stand in Jakarta, Indonesia. She says she uses 24 liters of cooking oils each day. Nasi Kapau is a traditional mixed rice she makes and serves it with deep-fried spiced beefjerky. She has had difficulty securing enough supply since January. And what she does purchase is more expensive. She is losing customers, even though her profits are down.

Emiwati said, "I'm sad," and he only used one name. "We can accept the rising price of cooking oils, but we cannot raise the prices of the food we sell."

Recent protests in Jakarta are partly due to the high price of cooking oil. Indonesia has placed price caps on palm oil in Indonesia and will prohibit exports. This creates a new shortage worldwide. Palm oil is being used in many products from cosmetics to cookies as an alternative to sunflower oil.

The Associated Press documented human rights violations in an industrial sector whose environmental impacts have been decried over the years.

Yawar Khan, the owner of Akash Tandoori in London, stated that a 20-liter drum worth of cooking oil cost him £28, ($28) a few month ago. It's now $38, ($49).

Khan said that it was impossible to pass on all price rises to consumers. This would also cause a disaster for Khan who is also struggling with rising prices for meat, spices and energy.

The pain is also felt by large companies. Unilever, a London-based company that makes Hellmann's mayonnaise and Dove soap, said it had contracts for essential ingredients such as palm oil in the first half. However, it warned investors that costs could rise in the second half.

Cargill, a global food company that produces vegetable oils, stated that its customers are trying new oils and changing their formulas at a faster rate. This can be difficult because different oils have different properties. Olive oil burns at lower temperatures than sunflower oil, while palm oil is viscous.

According to Joseph Glauber (a senior research fellow at The International Food Policy Research Institute), prices could fall this fall as farmers in the Northern Hemisphere harvest soybeans, corn and other crops. Bad weather is always a possibility. Last year, drought ravaged Canada’s canola crop, and Brazil’s soybean crop. In Malaysia, heavy rains impacted palm oil production.

According to Steve Mathews (co-head of research at Gro Intelligence), an agricultural data and analytics company, farmers may hesitate to plant enough crops in order to make up the shortfalls from Russia or Ukraine because they don’t know when it might end.

He stated that prices would fall if there was a cease-fire, or something similar.

The crisis could lead to countries reconsidering biofuel mandates. These mandates dictate how much vegetable oil must be mixed with fuel to reduce energy imports and emissions. Glauber stated that 42% of soybean oil in the U.S. goes to biofuel production. The Indonesian government delayed plans to require biodiesel based on palm oil to 40%. However, the European Commission stated that it would support member countries who choose to lower their biofuel mandates.

Consumers and businesses are both struggling in the interim.

Harry Niazi, the owner of The Famous Olley's Fish Experience, London, claims that he used to spend around 22 Pounds ($29) on a 20-liter jug full of sunflower oil. However, the price has risen to 42.50 Pounds ($55) recently. Niazi can use up to eight jugs per day.

He is also worried about the possibility of running out of sunflower oils. He is considering selling his truck to raise cash for oil stockpiling.

"It's very, extremely scary and I don’t know how fish and chip industry will cope. He said that he didn't know the answer.

Niazi has so far resisted increasing prices as he doesn’t want to lose clients.

Owner Christine Coronado, of Jordan's Grab n Go in Dyersburg Tennessee, was also worried about rising prices. Despite rising costs by 20%, and prices for cooking oil nearly tripling since her 2018 opening, she decided to raise prices in April.

She said, "It's not right to increase prices on people. But it's just that the costs are so much greater than they were two years ago."


 

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