Food Shortage Endangering Food Security Worldwide
Food Shortage Endangering Food Security Worldwide
  • Reporter Won John
  • 승인 2022.06.19 23:42
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▲Wheat Field in Ukraine / Pexels
▲Wheat Field in Ukraine / Pexels


The Russo-Ukrainian war has wreaked havoc on many aspects of our lives, from oil prices to international flight paths, no rock has been left unturned in an age of deglobalization. The food market has been no exception. Ukraine, with its vast wheat plains and large agricultural industry, had acted as the breadbasket of the world with over 400 million people consuming Ukrainian crops. Before the war, they had supplied 12% of globally traded calories along with Russia. War has since cut this major supply chain short, driving wheat prices up 53% since January as of May 19.
Conflict has historically been a major perpetrator of famine and hunger, and statistics over the last few years prove it still holds true. According to Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), agricultural prosperity is being reversed, with conflicts being the main driver. Between 2018 and 2021, the number of people with acute food insecurity caused by conflict increased by 88 percent. As David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), stated “When a nation that is the breadbasket of the world becomes a nation with the longest bread line in the world, we know we have a problem.”  
However, the war is not the sole cause of this crisis at hand. Even before the invasion took place early this year, the World Food Program had warned of a hard year ahead. Extreme heatwaves in India have reduced crop yields, pushing the government to ban exports of wheat to foreign countries. China, another major wheat producer, had expected to have its worst-ever crop yield since the rains delayed the planting of crops last year. Climate change is not helping, with major droughts devastating the crop fields from the Horn of Africa to America’s wheat belt.
While skyrocketing food prices have been critical, the price of supplementary agricultural products such as fertilizers have also risen greatly. According to Morgan Stanley, Russia and Ukraine export 28% of fertilizers made from nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as potassium. Russia also exported 11% of global urea and 48% of ammonium nitrate, which are both important components of fertilizers.
All these factors have culminated into an upcoming catastrophe in food security that could undermine decades worth of economic progress and food distribution efforts. Sara Menker, Founder and CEO of Gro Intelligence, stated that the price increases in major food crops have induced an additional 400 million increase in the number of people with food insecurities. This number is nearly a 40 percent increase globally in just the past five months and is similar to the number of people that China had taken out of poverty in the last two decades. Antony Blinken, Secretary of State of the United States of America, noted that the Russo-Ukrainian War would add another 40 million people affected by food insecurity, on top of the 161 million people already suffering from food shortages caused by conflicts.
While these problems propagate over the global supply chain, the main perpetrator of the war, the Russian Federation, has been in denial of its involvement in the crisis. The Russian government has consistently accused the West of enacting unrightful sanctions onto Russia, which they call the main reason for the food shortage. Russia has also been accused of taking the food storage currently in Ukraine hostage. Blinken noted that over 20 million tons of grain sit unused in Ukrainian silos, blocked by Russian intervention, while food prices escalate.
The situation shows no hint of improving over the coming months. Ukraine had already shipped most of its last crop before the war began. This means that the full effects of the war have yet to hit the market, with the lack of fuel and labor resources in the region foreshadowing a grim future ahead. Additionally, protectionism around the world is pouring more fuel on the fire. Many countries from Hungary to Indonesia have imposed national restrictions on fertilizer or food exports. Lack of global trade has been driving prices up and countries with low self-sustainability for food have become more vulnerable.
Meanwhile, Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, has urged for a five-step plan to help mitigate the effects of a food shortage catastrophe: increase the supply of food and fertilizers; improvement of social protection systems within countries; more access to international finance; more government aid towards small food producers; and additional funding towards humanitarian operations against famine and hunger. Only time will tell whether it will be enough to confront the upcoming storm.