Written by Samaira Aima, a grade 12 student.
Throughout history, wars have disrupted agriculture. However, in the context of globalized agriculture markets, the nature of Russia’s war in Ukraine presents never-before-seen consequences for global agriculture and food security. Together, Russia and Ukraine export roughly one-third of the world’s wheat, nearly 20% of its corn, and 80% of its sunflower oil.
The war’s impact on food security
The war has resulted in a massive food security challenge, disrupted livelihoods, and affected global food security during the agricultural growing season in Ukraine.
Several countries in East, West, Middle, and Southern Africa rely on Russia and Ukraine for a significant percentage of their wheat, fertilizer, and vegetable oil imports, but the war has disrupted global commodity markets and trade flows to Africa, raising already high food prices in the region.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, global food prices have reached new heights. According to the United Nations World Food Program, if the war lasts beyond April, acute hunger may increase by 17 percent worldwide, with the sharpest increases expected in East, West, and Southern Africa.
Over 95% of Ukraine’s grain, wheat, and corn exports were shipped out via the Black Sea before the war, and half of those exports went to MENA (the Middle East and North African) countries.
Egypt imports 80% of its wheat from Ukraine and Russia alone. Lebanon, already mired in crippling debt and inflation, imports 60% of its wheat from the two warring countries, which provide 80% of Tunisia’s grain. As a result of climate change, water scarcity, and the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecurity was already a major challenge in this region. The war has sparked warnings of riots, famine, and mass migration in this region.
The problem existed before, the war made it worse
Even before the war in Ukraine, food insecurity around the world was rising. The conflict in Ukraine has plunged global food and energy markets into turmoil, raising high food prices even further along with a sharp increase in fuel prices. This will ultimately affect local food prices and, therefore, access to food. Increasing international fuel prices increase already-pressurized grain prices, further compromising food security. The effects on food security will be felt most acutely in poor countries.
Political stability is intimately related to food security, so the political consequences of global food insecurity will be felt across the globe to a varying degree. The food crisis, rising energy prices, and the looming debt crisis in some countries have already endangered economic recovery. Thus, the global effects of the Russia-Ukraine war will be much more devastating.