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An international food crisis could be an unintended consequence of the War in Ukraine according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It claims the war threatens the supply of wheat and other food essentials.
Both Ukraine and Russia are major food exporters, so the war directly threatens supplies of wheat, maize and sunflower oil. Ukraine alone supplied 12% of global wheat before the war and was the biggest producer of sunflower oil.
Both at-war countries are also major producers of already high-priced fertilizer, and the war has increased energy prices which further impacts agricultural production costs, according to the Guardian.
“Right now, the short-term problem is availability,” says Torero.
“We need to find ways to fill the gap [in production caused by the war],” he said. “We think the gap can be closed somewhat, but not 100%. Countries should also try to diversify their suppliers.”
At least 50 countries depend on Russia and Ukraine for 30% or more of their wheat supply, and many developing countries in northern Africa, Asia, and the near east are among the most reliant. Developing countries are most affected by the price increases as their ability to trade and sell becomes compromised each day that Ukraine’s fruitful lands are destroyed from the sky above.
“We were already having problems with food prices… the war is putting us in a situation where we could easily fall into a food crisis,” he told the Guardian.
“Food systems were able to be more resilient in 2019, though they struggled at the beginning,” said Torero. “Stocks were very high at the beginning of Covid-19, there was the capacity then to respond to the shock. But having Covid-19 for two years has weakened the resilience of food systems.”
While the U.S.government has been willing to spend money and send support to Ukraine, circumventing a food crisis at home may be more challenging.
“My greatest fear is that the conflict continues – then we will have a situation of significant levels of food price rises, in poor countries that were already in an extremely weak financial situation owing to Covid-19,” said Torero. “The number of chronically hungry people will grow significantly if that is the case.”
As Ukrainian PresidentVolodymyr Zelensky pleads for peace and one-on-one talks with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, the ripple effects of their war will be felt for years to come, including food security for those without a bite to spare.