Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
By Isana Raja
The war in Ukraine has caused more than just a rise in gas prices—it’s actively contributing to a global food shortage. Ukraine and Russia account for a crucial portion of the world’s wheat, barley, corn, and sunflower oil exports; by some measures up to 12% of global caloric trade. Sanctions against Russia combined with Ukraine’s inability to export during the war has meant that large supplies of food have become trapped in supply chain limbo.
For countries across the Middle East and Africa, which are highly dependent on wheat imports from Ukraine and Russia, famine and starvation are imminent. Eleven countries, including Armenia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and Eritrea import 70% of their wheat from Ukraine and Russia; Thirty equatorial and Global South countries import 30% or greater, while the region of East Africa imports 90%. This comes as these countries are already facing food insecurity and famine from the pandemic, droughts, and ongoing conflict.
Sanctions placed on Russian fertilizer are further compounding the crisis. Russia exports around 17% of the global fertilizer supply. As a result, many farmers in countries such as Mongolia and Serbia—who import more than 50% of their fertilizer from Russia—are unable to yield sufficient crops and livestock.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that the number of hungry people across the world could balloon to between 8 million and 13 million as a result of the war in Ukraine. Those dependent on humanitarian aid, such as the people of Yemen and Afghanistan, will be hit the hardest. Additionally, the World Food Program has resorted to cutting daily rations for 3.8 million people in order to provide a degree of assistance to as many people as possible—essentially “taking food from the hungry to give to the starving.”