Food inflation Ukraine
Ukraine crisis means the food inflation that has been plaguing global consumers may now tip into a full-blown crisis Image Credit: Dan Gold

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine seems to have exacerbated global anxieties about disruption in the food supply chain and inflating food prices.

Russia and Ukraine account for a big portion of the world’s agricultural supplies — exporting wheat, corn, sunflower oil and other foods.

With imports from both countries almost dried up, many countries around the world, especially the developing countries, could be affected by the current crisis, due to the high proportion of grains they currently import from the Black Sea region.

David Beasley, head of the World Food Programme (WFP), was spot on when he recently warned that the conflict in Ukraine could send global food prices soaring, with a catastrophic impact on the world’s poorest.

In many countries, the price of wheat is up about 50 per cent in two weeks and corn has touched a decade high. As the conflict rages on in Ukraine, analysts note that export flows may continue to be disrupted for months altogether. This puts the governments in a bind. With many national economies trying to limp their way out of the global pandemic, when empty grocery shelves shocked the world, effort is now focused around economic recovery.

Hindering the still-fragile recovery

Coming, as it does, right on the heels of the pandemic, the Ukraine conflict is well set to hinder the still-fragile recovery.

Currently, 800 million people are chronically hungry in the world and the food inflation is likely to be felt most profoundly in poorer countries. From sub-Saharan Africa to nations in South Asia — a spike in food prices may see a rise in inflation.

The conflict in Ukraine and the unprecedented sanctions on Moscow — agreed upon by Western powers — have disrupted the supply chain of grains from Europe’s breadbasket.

While Russia’s wheat hasn’t come directly under sanctions, trade from Moscow has been severely disrupted. In the longer term, nations and firms — buyers, traders and other supply chain actors and financial institutions — could find themselves blocked from transactions to import food from Russia.

The world has to find a way out of this crisis and it becomes all the more incumbent upon nations to keep lines of communication open with the Kremlin to secure an immediate ceasefire and avoid another human catastrophe.

At a time when the world is struggling to find its feet after a two-year pandemic, the focus must continue to be global economic recovery.

Nations must ensure that the momentum around economic recovery is not weakened by the conflict in Ukraine.