almost 2 years ago • 3 mins
Fresh data out from the United Nations (UN) on Friday showed that food prices jumped to a record high last month.
What does this mean?
The world’s been getting hangry about food prices for a while now: harvests were disrupted by bad weather last year, and those dwindling supplies haven’t kept up with the post-lockdown bounceback in demand. But the Ukraine war has poured fuel on the fire: the country is the top exporter of sunflower oil in the world, and accounts for around 30% of the global wheat trade alongside Russia. That’s to say nothing of the damage the conflict has done to global trade more broadly. Put it together, and a UN index that tracks global food prices climbed 13% higher last month than the month before – meaning it’s now jumped more than 50% since mid-2020.
Why should I care?
Zooming in: The US is mealy-mouthed.
The UN has been vocal about the fact that the situation could get even dicier, especially now that some countries are limiting exports so they can feed themselves. The US, for its part, has floated the idea that Australia and India would be able to cover around half as much of Ukraine and Russia’s wheat output if they just upped exports. As for what it’s planning to do, the country’s reportedly thinking about the possibility of investing something sometime, maybe?
The bigger picture: Cheap and not-so-cheerful.
Brits are feeling the effects: data out last week showed that UK grocery spending was lower last month than it was in March 2021. Shoppers are swapping big-name brands for cheaper alternatives too, with sales of white-label goods on the rise. That might be why Lidl and Aldi – two German discount stores that have made waves in the UK specializing in own-brand products – were among the only retailers to gain market share last month.
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The UK government said last week it’s introducing new rules in a bid to make half of all new cars in the UK electric by 2028, but its infrastructure could do with an update first…
What does this mean?
The UK government said two years ago that it’d be banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030, and this move should help it get there: it’s introducing China-style rules that’ll force carmakers to make 22% of their output fully electric by 2024, 52% by 2028, and 80% by 2030. But some industry organizations are calling for more relaxed targets – not least because there’s not much talk of actively incentivizing British customers to actually buy EVs. They’re also not convinced there’ll be enough charging stations across the UK to power them – a shortfall that’s long been putting off potential electric converts in the country.
Why should I care?
The bigger picture: Did you forget something else?
The UK government’s latest plan is focused squarely on fully electric cars, but it hasn’t said anything about hybrids. That’s left hybrid specialists like Toyota wondering if they’ll even be able to sell them to British customers after 2030, which might be why the world’s biggest carmaker has threatened to stop investing in its UK-based carmaking plant – one of the biggest in the country.
Zooming out: Join in or lose out.
Government-led EV initiatives – of which there are more and more each year – do seem to be working: data from Bloomberg out on Friday showed there were around 16 million EVs on the world’s roads by the end of last year – up from just 1 million in 2016. And since Bloomberg thinks emerging markets will end up embracing EVs too, it now reckons that this figure could hit 71 million by 2025 – 10 years ahead of previous forecasts.
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