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Pandemic travel ban triggers spike in global food prices

Shortage of labor for harvests causes key index to surge to six-year high

Farms in advanced economies have been relying on foreign labor. (Source photo by Reuters) 

TOKYO -- Food prices are rising around the world due to the pandemic as laborers cannot migrate to other countries for harvest seasons. Employment in the agriculture sector declined 5.4% year-on-year in the July-September 2020 period, marking the biggest plunge in history. Climate change has also had an impact on maturing crops, with the two factors leading the international price index for food to reach a six-year high.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the international food price index stood at 113.3 in January, the highest level since July 2014. This was an 11% increase over the same month last year and the sixth consecutive month of year-on-year increases. Grain prices rose 24% to the highest level in six years and eight months. Sugar rose 8% and dairy products rose 7%.

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