Export restrictions in about 24 countries globally are pushing up prices and increasing food insecurity, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences.

The latest ABARES Insights report showed food prices have increased 65 per cent in the past two years, and reached their highest level since October 2012.

Executive director of ABARES Dr Jared Greenville said there were lessons to be learnt from the 2007-08 food crisis.

“Often when there is an increase in world food prices, governments respond by placing export restrictions on their own commodities,” Dr Greenville said.

“The aim is to moderate domestic prices and ease the burden on their own populations, which is understandable in the circumstances.”

But the report said the 2007-08 global food crisis showed export restrictions are detrimental to global food security, and provide “questionable benefits” to the domestic market.

“Export restrictions reduce the supply of food in world markets and increase prices, creating greater incentives for other countries to restrict exports,” ABARES said.

“For this reason, widespread export restrictions have a negative impact on global food security and hurt the poorest people who are already struggling to put food on the table.”

The report found several factors are contributing to higher global food grain prices, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine, poor growing conditions in major exporter countries, and the impacts of COVID-19.

Tim Harcourt, chief economist at the University of Technology, Sydney, said experts have been warning export restrictions would push prices up and help with increasing domestic food security.

“It’s what a few of us were predicting a few months ago, that we’re going to have a global food crisis,” Professor Harcourt told AAP.

He said the export restrictions have seen price increases to wheat, palm oil, maize and barley.

“They (export restrictions) are going to hurt the poorest people who need the food, not just at home but abroad,” he said.

The report concluded there had been an increase in the number of countries introducing export restrictions which could cause world prices to spiral higher.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates between 720 to 811 million people faced hunger in 2020, with high food prices making conditions even more challenging.

Governments across Asia, Africa and the Middle East have introduced export restrictions in response to rising grain prices, in an attempt to ease their domestic food prices.

“Removing export restrictions, or agreements to avoid implementing them in the first place, can help to ensure food is more available globally and increase the stability of food supplies,” Dr Greenville said.

Liv Casben
(Australian Associated Press)