What's the cooking oil shortage 2022 and why are supermarkets around the world rationing it?

The war in Ukraine has worsened the already devastating global cooking oil shortage that has affected all countries since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic

oil blobs on white
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A variety of industries and services have been affected by shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic since early 2020 but, now, as a new world order dictated by the war in Ukraine takes shape, certain product lines are contending with even deeper issues. Case in point: the cooking oil shortage of 2022.

From shortages of popular products at Starbucks to furniture delays and Christmas tree shortages, citizens of the world are by now used to hearing about scarcities that inevitably lead to rising prices of goods, but it seems like global cooking oil costs have been particularly affected by the war in Ukraine, and things probably won't get better any time soon.

"Global cooking oil prices have been rising since the COVID-19 pandemic began for multiple reasons, from poor harvests in South America to virus-related labor shortages and steadily increasing demand from the biofuel industry," reports NPR. "The war in Ukraine—which supplies nearly half of the world's sunflower oil, on top of the 25% from Russia—has interrupted shipments and sent cooking oil prices spiraling.”

To put it simply: Russia and Ukraine are the main exporters of cooking oil. Given the current political situation, the two countries are either choosing or unable to supply others with the usual amounts of the products. The resulting shortage in turn causes an increase in prices. 

Add inflation to the equation and you’ve got yourself a pretty dire situation affecting all households and businesses, especially people already dealing with poverty.

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, vegetable oil prices hit a record high in February of this year but then increased another 23% in March. Soybean oil and palm oil prices have also skyrocketed in the past few months. 

Cooking oil

(Image credit: Scott Olson / Staff)

To try to mitigate the situation, supermarkets around the world have actually been imposing limits on how much oil customers can buy during a single visit. NPR reports that markets in Italy, Turkey, Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom have already set rations.

The war isn’t showing signs of slowing down, so we would not be surprised to hear about other governments imposing similar measures. 

How to deal with the cooking oil shortage 2022

Without much cooking oil available, people around the world are clearly forced to re-think the way they prepare their food—whether at home or in a restaurant.

Professional chefs and at-home cooks have opted for boiling over frying, for example. That proves to be harder to do at restaurants that promise diners a certain caliber of fare that’s replicated throughout the week. 

Having to pay more for the limited supply of the product has also forced venue owners to increase their own prices. 

Of course, there are more serious issues at hand—in primis, the current situation of civilians in Ukraine—but if things don’t quickly improve in Eastern Europe, the world as a whole will likely have to shift its relationship to food overall. 

Anna Rahmanan

Anna Rahmanan is a New York-based writer and editor who covers culture, entertainment, food, fashion and travel news. Anna’s words have appeared on Time Out New York, the Huffington Post, Fortune, Forbes, Us Weekly, Bon Appetit and Brooklyn Magazine, among other outlets.