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Ukraine war puts food supply chain in crisis

Food supply chains already in flux in the wake of COVID-19 are under new pressure from the Ukraine war with potentially dire consequences for global stability.

Wheat, barley and fertilizer prices are skyrocketing by up to 40 percent in the wake of the war in Ukraine and the heavy sanctions levied on Russia.

“This could cause an escalation of hunger and poverty with dire implications for global stability, says Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, a UN agency.

The conflict-driven price hikes come on top of food prices already driven to 10-year highs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pre-pandemic progress toward reducing hunger has been set back, an additional 100 million people going hungry in its wake.

Reality check

Access to adequate food is a human right recognised under international law, but in developing and developed economies, 768 million people faced hunger in 2020. Of these, 418 million live in Asia, 282 million live in Africa and 60 million live in Latin America and the Caribbean. Nearly one in three people in the world (2.37 billion) did not have access to adequate food in 2020.

In the last two years, the number of food insecure people more than doubled from 135 million to 283 million. Food insecurity ranges from people eating minimally adequate diets but having to make significant changes to support non-food needs, to famine where acute malnutrition and disease levels are high.

Around 660 million people may still face hunger in 2030, in part due to lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on global food security – 30 million more people than if the pandemic had not occurred.

The majority (60 percent) of people affected by hunger live in conflict zones, with conflict the main driver in 8 out of 10 of the worst hunger crises.

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The Russian Federation and Ukraine are responsible for 29 percent of the global wheat trade, and many countries including Indonesia, Bangladesh, Eritrea and Armenia are all highly dependent on wheat imports from these markets.

Some countries including Indonesia, Argentina, Egypt and Morocco have put in place trade restrictions to protect their own supplies of food in the wake of the war in Ukraine.

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.

Monash University

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