The Barley Crisis
The cost of eating and drinking is rising. Breweries and beeries won’t feel the recent increase in barley prices as fast as farmers will: those who use it for animal feed have already seen the price of a bushel of non-malted barley (about 22 kg) double since the end of June. Bad weather in Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, which between them take half the world’s barley to market, is the cause. The rise pushes up the price of grains in general and hits us all eventually, but the hit is staggered. In rich countries we spend less than one fifth of our income on food; in developing countries the figure is more like a half or three-quarters. The gap is narrowing as the value of food appreciates all over the world. But the poor must still go first, as the FT’s commodities correspondent explains.