Ukraine – often designated as the ‘Breadbasket of Europe’- has recently faced several food supply challenges due to the unprecedented Russian invasion. While these vulnerabilities in its food system were already triggered by the impact of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation is only compounded by the fact that Ukraine is an important supplier of wheat, corn, and other grains in Europe. But what if we tell you, that the domino effect of this catastrophic event goes way beyond Europe? How, where and when? Let’s find out!
Breaking the Bank: Last year saw a record-breaking surge in global food prices.
Amidst the triple threat of Russia’s war on Ukraine, the pandemic, and extreme weather, the United Nations’ Food Price Index has hit an all-time high, surpassing the previous record set in 2011. This surge in prices has hit agricultural products particularly hard, making it a challenging time for food systems worldwide. Let the statistics speak.
However, there is some hope on the horizon, as the Food Price Index has shown signs of improvement. The index has dropped for nine consecutive months, with the December value even below that of one year ago. A major contributor to this positive trend is the sharp decline in the price of vegetable oils, as supplies are high and demand has dropped due to a slowing economy and recession fears.
Furthermore, the restart of Ukraine’s food exports via the Black Sea has allowed for over 12 million metric tons of grain and other foodstuffs to be shipped through the beginning of December. Lastly, the falling energy prices have helped bring down the cost of fertiliser, which bodes well for the agricultural sector.
Impact on Global Food Security
FAO estimates suggest that the ongoing war in Ukraine could result in an additional 7.6 to 13.1 million people facing undernourishment in 2022 and 2023. This risk disproportionately affects countries like Jordan, Yemen, Israel, and Lebanon, which rely heavily on imports of basic commodities from Russia and Ukraine. African nations may also struggle to cope with market disruptions and price spikes, while fragile countries may see a reduction in food assistance. Within Ukraine, the World Food Programme reports that 45% of the population is already struggling to find sufficient food.
Nevertheless, the Russia-Ukraine war has had far-reaching consequences. The ripple effect of this conflict has been felt worldwide, with millions of people at risk of undernourishment and hunger. It’s a stark reminder of how fragile our food systems are, and how important it is to work towards a more sustainable and resilient future.