Against expectations, global food prices have tumbled

Why the war in Ukraine has caused less disruption than feared

SIX MONTHS after Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine, an inflationary shock is still ripping through boardrooms, finance ministries and households. But in one crucial area, prices have come back to Earth. The cost of grains, cereals and oils, staples of diets around the world, has returned to levels last seen before the war began.

Russia and Ukraine are agricultural powerhouses—until recently, the world’s largest and fifth-largest exporters of wheat and two largest exporters of sunflower oil. It was not, therefore, a surprise that food prices surged in February and March, driven by fears that exports would be disrupted by war; indeed, the worry was that shortages would persist, decimating grain stocks and causing mass starvation.

That terrible outcome now appears to have been been avoided. In mid-August wheat futures in Chicago, for delivery in December, dropped to $7.70 per bushel, far below the $12.79…