From high-dollar doughnuts to pricey fried chicken, the cost of the fried food business is higher than ever before. That’s because of rising cooking oil prices, the latest economic impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. A recent article published in The Washington Post explains how the continued brutality in Ukraine, along with extreme weather conditions in other parts of the world, are taking a major toll on cooking oil prices—prices which are expected to keep rising.
The Post spoke with a number of industry insiders feeling the crunch, including Christine Schaefer, founder and executive pastry chef of D.C.-based District Doughnut. Schaefer told the Post that the blocks of vegetable oil Schaefer uses for frying have doubled in recent months and now cost $70 apiece. “Every week it goes up a dollar,” she told the Post. “There was one point it jumped $10 in a single week.”
The Post cites the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, which wrote that vegetable oil prices worldwide “hit a then-record high in February and increased an additional 23 percent in March.” As a whole, the most common cooking oils used in the U.S. have increased by 152% over the past two years. There are a number of reasons for that, including pandemic supply issues and extreme weather. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine worsened the situation, adding to the invasion’s lasting economic impact.
The Post reports that Ukraine accounts for two-thirds of global exports of sunflower oil. Russia’s violent invasion made it impossible for sunflower farmers and oil manufacturers to deliver last year’s crop—and the ongoing destruction will likely disrupt this year’s planting. That, in turn, is sending global oil exporters into a tailspin. Argentina, the global leader in soybean oil exports, raised its export taxes immediately following the invasion. It also briefly suspended exports to “protect its domestic supplies and prices,” writes the Post.
This comes after an extensive drought for Argentina, as well as long-lasting dry conditions in Brazil, another top soybean oil exporter. Meanwhile, the Indonesian government has banned all palm oil exports in an effort to reduce the burden on local consumers, who’ve been faced with a 40% increase in domestic palm oil prices. Finally, an extended drought in Canada led to historic lows in canola oil production.
It’s a perfect storm—one that guarantees oil prices aren’t dropping any time soon. In fact, they’ll likely go even higher before settling down, the Post reports. In the meantime, expect to pay an extra buck or two for your favorite premium doughnuts.