War in Ukraine Increases Global Food Insecurity | World | Latest news and insights from around the world | DW

First, the good news: Farmers around the world are growing enough wheat to feed everyone. The bad news is that wheat is getting more and more expensive and it’s not growing where it’s needed.

Since Russia announced its grain export ban last week, prices have soared again. Many countries fear famine and protests triggered by the lack of food. The temporary ban imposed by Moscow on exports of wheat, barley, rye and other cereals is expected to last at least until the end of June.

“Wheat as a weapon”

“With Russia’s partial wheat export ban, Putin is using grain as a weapon and threatening the food situation in poor countries, especially in the south,” said agricultural policy spokesman Martin Häusling. of the Greens in the European Parliament.

According to the German Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control, Ukraine’s wheat production accounts for 11.5% of the world market, while Russia’s share is 16.8%. In corn, Ukraine provides 17% of the world export market.

It’s not just the many countries in Africa and the Middle East that depend on grain from Russia and Ukraine, but also major emerging markets, including Turkey, India and China.

According to a UN report on the impact of the war in Ukraine on trade and development published on March 16, the quota of wheat, maize, barley, rapeseed, seeds and oil of sunflower imported from Russia and Ukraine amounts to 25.9% in Turkey, 23% in China and 13% in India.

The report describes how several factors have contributed to creating a troubling scenario: rising grain, energy, fertilizer and transport prices, empty grain silos and the COVID pandemic are threatening the food supply of millions of people and fuel hunger and inflation.

“There are simply no food reserves left”

While grain silos are well stocked in the EU, the food crisis is currently affecting countries that were already facing economic problems.

“In many places there are simply no more food reserves,” said Simone Pott, spokeswoman for German aid group Welthungerhilfe. “If prices go up again now, there’s nothing people can do to compensate.”

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, agricultural raw materials already cost 31% more on the world market in 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to 2019. ne of the reasons cited was the cost of storage during the pandemic.

The high price of bread was one of the triggers of the Arab Spring revolutions in 2011

The situation is particularly precarious for people in many African countries who depend on imports from Ukraine and Russia.

“Opportunities to substitute imports from the Russian Federation and Ukraine with intra-African trade are limited, as the regional supply of wheat is relatively low and many parts of the continent lack transport infrastructure. and efficient storage capacity,” the UN report said.

Rising fuel prices lead to food crisis

Pott told DW that even if countries like Somalia, Benin, Congo, Tanzania and Senegal were able to grow more wheat on their own, the situation would still be critical.

“When fuel and energy prices increase, transport prices and refrigeration prices also increase. That is why price fluctuations are extremely large in these countries,” she said.

Infographic showing a list of the top 10 wheat producers in the world in 2021/22

Surveys of Welthungerhilfe partners in Africa and Asia show how the crisis has already affected many countries. In Bangladesh, vegetable oil prices have increased by 42%, while wheat is 39% more expensive. In Zimbabwe, Africa’s former breadbasket, the price of fuel has risen from $1.30 (€1.18) to $1.75.

Several West African countries have responded with political solutions. For the next three months, Senegal and Ivory Coast have imposed price caps on refined palm oil, sugar, milk, rice, tomato paste, beef and noodles. The Senegalese government is also subsidizing local rice farmers with the equivalent of an additional €76.2 million.

Food ‘isn’t produced where people urgently need it’

“Enough food is produced to feed the whole world – but it’s not produced where people urgently need it,” Pott said.

She added that the current crisis has shown that countries heavily dependent on Russian and Ukrainian imports have failed to invest in their own production and rural development.

Green lawmaker Häusling said the EU should step in and provide poorer states with the share of grain they don’t get from Ukraine.

“The EU has a self-sufficiency rate of over 100% in many areas of agricultural production and is a net exporter,” he said. “Bread rolls would get a bit more expensive here in Germany, but elsewhere people will die without enough food.”

This article has been translated from German