On February 24, Russia began an invasion of Ukraine. The conflict is having a devastating impact on the people of Ukraine and is having some impact on the food supply, specifically for emerging countries such as Egypt, Lebanon, and Turkey.
Ukraine, nicknamed the “breadbasket of Europe” for its rich, fertile soil, is a world leader in the production of items such as barley, maize, and wheat. In fact, Russia and Ukraine combined account for 30% of the world’s agricultural exports—most of which are shipped to these emerging countries whose dependence on the products are a top security matter.
“These food export shortfalls and rising U.S. dollar make it logistically and economically impossible for these countries to acquire enough grains, if at all, to feed their citizenry and may resort to reducing or eliminating their food subsidies which will inevitably lead to severe social unrest and political instability,” Albert Goldson, executive director of the Cerulean Council, a New York-based think tank, tells Food Quality & Safety.
During its combative efforts, the Russian navy has blockaded the Black Sea, through which 90% of Ukraine’s agricultural products are shipped, so there’s no way to get product out. “There are several maritime vessels, including two Chinese [ships], which are laden with goods but are not permitted to depart,” Goldson says. “Because of draconian sanctions, none are being transported to the E.U., which receives 6.4% of Ukraine’s agricultural exports.”
This is leading to both a shortage and higher costs. Numerous analysts have warned that the conflict could impact the production of grains and even double global wheat prices. While the number of people in the world who suffer from hunger has risen substantially over the last two years due to the pandemic, climate change, and other challenges, delaying these important products comes at a particularly vulnerable time.
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