Today, it’s all too clear that the consequences of Russia’s war stretch far beyond Ukrainian borders. This is especially true when it comes to the agri-food sector. In 2020, Ukraine and Russia accounted for more than a quarter of global wheat exports. Since the start of hostilities, fears of a grain shortage in the region has caused prices to spike.
Whether it’s economic sanctions on Russian trade, difficulties ensuring the growth of Ukrainian wheat during wartime, or restricted access to the Azov sea and various ports, the factors blocking access to Russian and Ukrainian grain are many, and have raised the possibility of an unprecedented global food crisis.
Countries in the Middle East and North Africa especially have reason to worry, as they tend to rely heavily on exports from one or both sides of the conflict for their wheat. An increase in wheat prices could exacerbate existing famines and destabilise countries where access to bread, protected by public subsidies, has been a major political issue in the past.
A report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on 11 March 2022 estimated that between 8 and 13 million more people could be affected by food deprivation if a drop in Russian and Ukrainian food exports drags on.
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