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ECONOMISTS have warned that the price of a host of crucial resources and commodities - already elevated in the aftermath of the pandemic - could rise even further as the result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Food and fuel - or as some put it ‘heating and eating’ - are two factors to keep a close eye on. Prices at the petrol pumps have already spiked, and with both Ukraine and Russia being top exporters of grains and vegetable oils, food is expected to follow suit.
Forecasters at Pantheon Macroeconomics said they had upgraded their estimates for UK inflation and now expect the Consumer Price Index, the official measure of price rises in the UK, to peak above 8% in April.
JP Morgan, meanwhile, highlighted the likely effect on wheat - a major export of both Ukraine and Russia. The region now subjected to fierce fighting is often called the ‘bread basket of Europe’ thanks to its fertile land and farming industries. Not only will the fighting disrupt that supply, but it could impact the regions production of fertilizer. That means even nations like the UK, which produces the bulk of the wheat it consumes for itself, may see production costs rise.
Russia and Ukraine are major food exporters
Source: International Trade Centre. Exports shown are those with a combined share over 10% of the 2020 export total.
Households are already dealing with rapidly rising bills in all areas of their spending, and at the supermarket checkout, in particular. The Office for National Statistics, which produces UK inflation data, confirmed that food and non-alcoholic drinks were the biggest contributors to the annual rise in inflation at the latest reading. But delve into the figures a bit more and you see that contribution has been concentrated in just the past few months.
Even before the outbreak of war in Ukraine, John Allan, chairman of the UK’s biggest grocer Tesco, was warning that while his company had managed to keep food price inflation in its stores to 1% in the past three months shoppers should expect another 5% rise by the spring. Those forecasts may soon have to updated.
The cruelty of rising food bills is that those on low incomes are likely to spend a higher proportion of their income on them, so price rises hurt them the hardest. When farms become battlegrounds, the impact on global hunger could be devastating.
Beyond food, other commodities have also risen in price. Already elevated oil and gas prices stand to rise yet further with knock-on effects for the price of transportation and distribution of practically all goods. The RAC reported on Sunday that petrol jumped to £1.51 a litre.
Markets are already weighing up the chances of a half point increase in interest rates at the next meeting but, even if the war in Ukraine pushes prices up further, the Bank of England is likely to see those pressures as beyond the control of its monetary policy levers.
Important information: Investors should note that the views expressed may no longer be current and may have already been acted upon. Overseas investments will be affected by movements in currency exchange rates. Investments in emerging markets can be more volatile than other more developed markets. Reference to specific securities should not be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell these securities and is included for the purposes of illustration only. This information is not a personal recommendation for any particular investment. If you are unsure about the suitability of an investment you should speak to one of Fidelity’s advisers or an authorised financial adviser of your choice.
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