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War in Ukraine leading to global food shortages

War in Ukraine leading to global food shortages

Ukraine and Russia are big suppliers of wheat to over 50 countries—and the war threatens their socio-economic livelihood, too.

By Andrew Joseph,; Photo by Aleksandr Eremin on Unsplash taken in Donetsk, Ukraine

Maximo Torero, Chief Economist of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said that the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation will create a major food crisis.

Due to the ongoing effects of the global Covid-19 pandemic, the war could tip our global food system into the disaster area.

In an interview with the Guardian, Torero said: “We were already having problems with food prices. What countries are doing now is exacerbating that, and the war is putting us in a situation where we could easily fall into a food crisis.”

While food prices have been on the rise since the latter half of 2020, wheat prices recently hit record highs—though have since dropped slightly.  

Why? Both Russia and Ukraine provide 30 percent or more of wheat to 50 other countries, and that supply has been effectively choked off. Developing countries in Africa, Asia and the near east are seen as being most vulnerable by the FAO.

Ukraine and Russia are big suppliers of ag foods, and the invasion affects the global supply of wheat, corn, and sunflower oil.

Ukraine is the largest producer of sunflower oil—the sunflower has become a symbol of Ukraine during the war—and supplies 12 percent of the world’s wheat—at least it did before the invasion. Just before the war, Ukraine had managed to deliver out two-thirds of its wheat for export, but the remaining grain has been blocked from shipping.

The war also will prevent Ukraine farmers from planting this Spring, even if they do manage to plant, if the war continues longer into the growing season, it could stop farmers from caring for their crop, and eventually from harvesting.

Both countries are also big suppliers of various nitrogen fertilizers, already having reached double or triple the costs in 2022 relative to 2021.

With sanctions against the Russian Federation and Belarus, and Ukraine effectively blockaded, it means fewer foods and fertilizer for everyone. It is also possible that Russia will divert its resources to countries it feels “less threatened by”, such as China, who could purchase Russian agri-foods and supplies for resale to other countries at an increased cost.

It’s supply and demand, and farmers need fertilizers to grow food, and consumers need food.

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