University of Arkansas

Walton College

The Sam M. Walton College of Business

Record High Food Prices May Get Worse

Wheat field with a storm in the background.
April 15, 2022  |  By Jason Miller, Ron Gordon

Share this via:

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is causing inflated food prices to soar even higher. The United Nation’s Food Price Index, which was created in 1990 to track international food prices, hit its highest level ever in March. Prices rose 12.6% from February, which previously held the record.

Unfortunately, recent commodity price data from the World Bank — whose economists are concened that high food prices may spark riots in many countries— make us believe that inflation will likely worsen in coming months.


We recently wrote about how the invasion has caused fertilizer prices to rise. Fertilizer is a key input for farming, so fertilizer price increases eventually impact everyone who buys food. Similarly, though wheat is not a key input for as many products as fertilizer, it is such a common ingredient that rising commodity prices will likely have far-reaching inflationary effects.

Chart showing hard red winter wheat prices since 2003.


Ukraine and Russia are not major exporters of soybeans. Brazil is the largest exporter, followed closely by the United States, with the two countries accounting for more than 80% of global soybean exports.   Nonetheless, soybeans have not been immune from the European conflict. Rising soybean prices will affect food prices both directly and indirectly.

The primary reason soybean prices have risen since the invasion is that higher crude oil prices have increased the attractiveness of renewable diesel, which is a perfect substitute for diesel derived from petroleum.  As noted by the Energy Information Administration, there is a strong upward trend in the percentage of soybean oil that is used to make biodiesel products including renewable diesel. That trend is expected to continue since additional capacity is coming online. 

Soybeans jumped 9% in price in March from February and soybean oil surged 23% over this same period. Apart from its use in biodiesel, soybean oil is an important edible oil, which places more pressure on the cooking oil market (see next section). Furthermore, higher soybean prices push up prices of soybean meal, an important protein source for livestock

Chart showing soybean prices since 2003.

Chart showing soybean oil prices since 2003.

Chart showing soybean meal prices since 2003.

Cooking Oil

When the invasion began, some analysts predicted that it would affect sunflower oil prices and supplies since Ukraine produces 47% of the world’s exports. Indeed, sunflower oil prices have risen sharply and some European grocers have begun limiting customers’ purchases to try to stretch dwindling inventories.

However, the conflict has also raised prices and increased demand for other cooking oils as food manufacturers, restaurants, and home cooks seek alternatives.[2] Prices for soybean oil (discussed above), palm oil, and rapeseed oil hit record levels in March. Prices for the latter — the easiest substitute for sunflower oil — rose 24% from February and 72% year-over-year. Like wheat and soybeans, cooking oil is so ubiquitous that rising commodity prices will eventually affect prices for many foodstuffs.

Chart showing rapeseed oil prices since 2003.


Chart showing palm oil prices since 2003.

Jason MillerJason Miller is an associate professor of supply chain management at Michigan State University's Eli Broad College of Business. He utilizes economic data from various government sources to develop insights for supply chain management practitioners.


Matt WallerRon Gordon is the Supply Chain Management Research Center's communications specialist. He has a U.S. History from the University of Arkansas.

Supply Chain Management Research Center

Walton College of Business

We engage industry, faculty, and students, serving as a trusted resource to exchange ideas, advance supply chain knowledge, and cultivate future industry leaders. Learn more...

Recent Posts

Marc Scott, associate professor of supply chain management, led the 2023 Immersion Summit

Event Highlight: 2023 Supply Chain Immersion Virtual Summit

The 2023 Immersion Summit, hosted by the J.B. Hunt Transport Department of Supply Chain Management in the Sam M. Walton College of Business, took place virtually last week from November 9th through 10th. The purpose of the summit was to connect a diverse grouping of university students and faculty from across the nation with the thriving supply chain ecosystem in Northwest Arkansas.

November 17, 2023 | By Nathan Bramwell