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EU tracks spikes in prices for eggs, milk and bread during first year of Russia-Ukraine conflict

Drought exasperated economic strains attributed to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

(CN) — Inflation, drought and war made milk, eggs and bread more expensive across the European Union according to data published by Eurostat on Thursday — a 24% spike in agricultural prices over the last year.

Russian’s invasion of Ukraine beginning last February disrupted global supplies of grains, wheat, and maize. Ukraine additionally exports large amounts of sunflowers, oilseeds, and fertilizer.

As a result, grain cereal prices in the EU increased an average 45% over the last year. Finland reported the highest increase in cereal prices at 70%, followed by Hungary at 67%. With just a 33% rise in cereal costs, Austria and the Netherlands tracked the lowest price hikes in that category.

War inflation also drove up the costs of energy and fuel needed to produce agriculture. Prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the EU imported more than a quarter its crude oil from Russia, along with 46% of solid fuel and 40% of natural gas. 

In anticipation of Russia potentially cutting off energy supplies to the EU, member states agreed to reduce their energy use in the months leading up to winter. While the EU remains largely dependent on Russian oil, Eurostat tracked a dramatic 20% reduction in fossil fuel use last fall.

EU inflation reached 11% in October and remained there through the end of the year, driving up costs for fertilizers, soil improvers, lubricants, animal feed and seeds.

Besides human-caused strains on the economy, environmental factors also stressed production.

A drought gripped nearly half of Europe by August, according to data compiled by the European Drought Observatory. Seventeen percent of the continent experienced alert conditions.

“The second driver was the widespread drought, which is expected to have reduced yields on crops, including fodder crops like hay used as feed for livestock,” a release explained. “The drought across the EU in 2022 reduced the availability of fresh grass as a feed for dairy cows in particular.”

In addition to straining crop production, the drought dried out fresh grass needed to feed dairy cows, contributing to an average 31% rise in milk prices.  

Cyprus, which relies heavily on goat milk, only experienced a 3% rise in milk prices. Belgium, Lithuania, Hungary and Latvia saw prices increase by 50% or more.

While egg prices increased an average 43% across Europe, France saw the most dramatic rise with a 76% price hike on eggs. Egg prices rose just 6% in Luxembourg.

Fruit was the only agricultural product in the EU to become less expensive, with a 3% price drop.

In 2021, Luxembourg reported having the most expensive food, while Finland reported the highest costs of alcohol, 19% above the EU average.

Luxembourg ranked the highest for meat prices, while Cyprus reported the most costly milk, cheese and eggs.

Energy makes up about 10% of EU household spending, with about 40% going to services and 20% to food, alcohol and tobacco.

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Categories / Economy, International

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