Warnings of a possible strong El Niño weather pattern starting this summer have fueled concerns that droughts and floods could decimate crops and send food prices higher. But Credit Suisse says there’s no reason to worry. In a recent report, analyst Michael Wan found no strong correlation between El Niño patterns and food inflation over the past two decades. Food prices barely budged during the 1998 El Niño, the strongest in recent history. And while costs jumped during two of the four most recent seasons, those increases were likely linked to other factors. During the 2007 El Niño, for example, the Indian and Vietnamese governments banned rice exports, causing shortages. And in 2010, higher oil prices were likely the culprit for food inflation. This time, there may be negative effects in certain regions such as India, which could see a smaller rice harvest. But unlike in 2007, global stockpiles are currently at healthy levels, and should help keep prices anchored.
First published in The Financialist in 2014.
JENS ERIK GOULD
Jens Erik Gould is a political, business and entertainment writer and editor who has reported from a dozen countries for media outlets including The New York Times, National Public Radio and Bloomberg News.