We are well into the third month in the conflict that is engulfing Ukraine in what is the most serious risk to peace in Europe and beyond since the end of the Second World War. Even during the tense decades of the Cold War, the ideological standoff between the former Soviet Union and its allies never evolved into a “hot” confrontation as we are witnessing now.
As well as the implications for the global economy as a result of energy supplies being affected by the conflict — and the global economy can certainly not be described as robust given the worldwide impact of the coronavirus pandemic — there are severe implications indeed for the supply of food around the planet.
The disruption to Ukraine’s wheat supplies can impact many underdeveloped nations. This is something the world must stay aware of as we go forward.
Before the conflict began, Ukraine was responsible for producing some 12 per cent of the world’s wheat exports. Ukraine also accounted for 16 per cent of global corn production, and its vast rolling countryside produced 46 per cent of the world’s sunflower — which explains why now sales of cooking oils are limited or rationed.
No sign of conflict ending
Given that there is no sign of the conflict ending anytime soon — and even if it did it will take years for pre-conflict production levels to return to anything like normal — it’s now wonder alarm bells are being sounded over the threat to food supplies.
According to the United Nations Security Council, some 125 million people are directly affected as the Ukraine goes from bread basket to bread lines.
This also serves as a warning as to what will happen if our temperatures continue to rise as a result of global warming.
The ripple effect of the Ukraine crisis on global grocery bills, however, is just a taste of what is to come as climate change disrupts the world’s agricultural areas, with less fertile areas available to produce the basic commodities upon which we have become so reliant.
Supplies of food are not the only worry. Russia and Belarus are nations under international sanctions — but they are also leading producers of fertilisers used by farmers the world over. Less supply means higher prices — exacerbating the food crisis for us all. The lesson here is that we need to find an end to this conflict urgently — and the sooner the better.