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Staple Food Prices Generally Calm, But Rice, Coffee, Sugar See Volatility Rise

Jun 29th, 2020 • by Rob Vos, Joseph Glauber, Manuel Hernandez, and Brendan Rice

Futures prices for most staple food commodities have fallen since February because of market supply chain disruptions associated with the spread of the COVID-19 virus and lower oil prices, among other factors. However, overall, price variability in the major agricultural commodity markets has remained relatively calm in the face of COVID-19-related shutdowns. Until recently, the exceptions to this relative calm have included hard wheat and coffee. Hard wheat saw moderate and high levels of price variability from April 9 to June 15. This appeared to be related to tightening of wheat markets with lower stock-to-utility ratios, measures taken by two major wheat-producing countries (Kazakhstan and Russia) to limit exports, and reports of prospects of less favorable growing conditions in parts of Ukraine and other parts of Europe. Price variability in coffee was driven by low stock levels and supply disruptions, but these conditions calmed in the second half of May.