The prices of oil and other key food commodities were increasingly volatile this week in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last Friday.

After many months of rising prices, maize, wheat and soya plummeted amid concerns the crisis might reduce demand for agricultural imports in Japan, although prices had started to rise again by the time The Grocer went to press. Oil also became volatile, with the price of Brent Crude falling to $111 a barrel, only to rise again later in the week, driven in part by the escalating political situation in Libya.

Companies such as Nestlé, Danone, Unilever, ABF and Reckitt Benckiser had relatively little direct exposure to Japan, said investment bank Nomura, with Japanese sales typically accounting for less than 2% of global sales.

Immediately after the earthquake, Nestlé reported that two of its three Japanese sites had been affected and it was suspending operations at one of the sites in order to assess the damage. Operations partially resumed on Wednesday.