How the crisis could impact food supplies, trigger social and political unrest


Rising food prices following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, one of the world’s breadbaskets, could trigger riots in poorer countries, said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, president of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Expressing concern over the effects of the Russian invasion, Okonjo-Iweala told the Guardian that as many as 35 African countries depended on food imported from the Black Sea region. Russia and Ukraine together account for 24% of world wheat supplies.

“The impact on food prices and hunger this year and next could be substantial,” Okonjo-Iweala said, adding that food and energy were two of the biggest items consumed by the poor across the country. world.

How bad is that?

Food prices were already rising due to pandemic-related inflation and supply chain disruptions. However, the price of wheat has increased since the outbreak of war in Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine export almost 30% of wheat, 17% of corn and more than half of the sunflower oil in the world.
Meanwhile, two freighters were hit by Russian missiles in the Black Sea port, slamming Ukrainian exports. Other war-induced bottlenecks include the effects of Western sanctions and the boycott of Russian ports by shipping companies. All this disrupted the flow of food and fertilizers from Russia.

Earlier this month, fears of no Russian or Ukrainian wheat in the export market sent prices soaring to a record $12.94 a bushel at the Chicago Board of Trade, the Wall Street reported. Newspaper.

Recently, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said the Ukraine conflict could push food and feed prices up 8-22% from already high levels. Major producing countries such as India, Australia, Argentina and the United States could fill the gap in the short term, according to the report. However, the agency has estimated that 20-30% of wheat, maize and sunflower seed crops are unlikely to be harvested or planted during the 2022-23 season.

Between 2019 and 2022, the number of people on the brink of starvation rose from 27 million to 44 million, wrote David Beasley, executive director of the United Nations World Food Program, in the Washington Post.

“If the Black Sea transport corridors are further disrupted by this incipient war, transport prices will rise in parallel, doubling or even tripling,” Beasley wrote.

Widespread impact

Experts have said rising food prices could lead to unrest in several countries, such as during the 2007-2008 crisis, when riots broke out in countries like Bangladesh and Haiti. People have already started to protest against soaring prices in Iraq. “Rising prices are strangling us, whether it’s bread or other food products,” Hassan Kazem, a retired teacher, told AFP.

Dwindling food supplies following the ongoing conflict in Ukraine could trigger unrest, AGCO chief executive Eric Hansotia told CNBC.

“The last time we had this kind of disruption was one of the main triggers for the Arab Spring,” he said, referring to social uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa about the high cost of food in the early 2010s.

Already, households in North African countries are rushing to stock up on staples like flour and semolina due to soaring food prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Several Arab countries, Tunisia, Morocco and Libya import wheat from Russia and Ukraine.

The current situation could push Tunisia, which was already struggling to pay for food imports before February, towards economic collapse, Indian Express reported. There have also been protests in Morocco against inflation.

Opportunity for Indian farmers

The growing demand has opened an export route for Indian farmers. Between April and January 2021-22, India exported over 6 million tonnes (mt) of wheat. Similarly, rice exports reached 14 million tons in April-January against the record of 13.1 million tons in 2020-21. Maize exports are also expected to climb above levels of 3.5-4 tonnes last seen in 2013-14, Indian Express reported.

First post: STI


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