The Russian-Ukrainian war is adding pressure to already high food prices, threatening food security for millions

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatens a significant portion of the world’s food supply when prices were already at their highest level in years.

The two countries are among the world’s top grain exporters, according to Harvard Growth Lab’s Atlas of Economic Complexity, accounting for 26% and 20% of global wheat and barley exports, respectively, in 2019. skyrocketing wheat futures’ prices and putting pressure on a still-recovering global supply chain, paving the way for an increase in already inflated consumer prices.

Share of world exports by value, top 10 countries 2019

About 24% of Ukraine’s wheat and meslin exports go to Egypt

1st world exporter of wheat and meslin

3rd world exporter of barley

Around 35% of Russia’s barley exports go to Iran

4th world corn exporter

About 24% of Ukraine’s wheat and meslin exports go to Egypt

1st world exporter of wheat and meslin

3rd world exporter of barley

Around 35% of Russia’s barley exports go to Iran

4th world corn exporter

About 24% of Ukraine’s wheat and meslin exports go to Egypt

1st world exporter of wheat and meslin

3rd world exporter of barley

Around 35% of Russia’s barley exports go to Iran

4th world corn exporter

1st world exporter of wheat and meslin

3rd world exporter of barley

4th world corn exporter

1st world exporter of wheat and meslin

3rd world exporter of barley

4th world corn exporter

The potential pain of a loss of agricultural exports, however, is likely to be felt disproportionately around the world. Countries in the Middle East and North Africa depend on the nearby Black Sea as a trade route and source of imports from Russia and Ukraine. The war has crippled shipping there, stranding ships and sailors around the world and putting countries like Egypt, the world’s biggest wheat importer, at risk of losing a vital food source. Egypt obtains about 70% of its total wheat imports from Russia and Ukraine.

Historical ties and geographical proximity mean that countries of the former Soviet Union, such as Armenia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, tend to import much of their wheat products from the region.

Wheat imports from Russia and Ukraine as a percentage of

total wheat imports of each country, by income group

The size of the circle reflects the population

Middle East and North Africa

Note: All data is from 2019 and includes meslin. Some circles approximated due to spacing.

Sources: Growth Lab, Harvard University (share of imports); World Bank (population and income groups)

Wheat imports of Russia and Ukraine as a percentage of each country’s total wheat imports, by income group

The size of the circle reflects the population

Middle East and North Africa

Note: All data is from 2019 and includes meslin. Some circles approximated due to spacing.

Sources: Growth Lab, Harvard University (share of imports);

World Bank (population and income groups)

Wheat imports from Russia and Ukraine in percentage

each country’s total wheat imports, by income group

The size of the circle reflects the population

Middle East and North Africa

Note: All data is from 2019 and includes meslin.

Some circles approximated due to spacing.

Sources: Growth Lab, Harvard University (share of imports);

World Bank (population and income groups)

Wheat imports from Russia and Ukraine as a percentage of each country’s total wheat imports,

by income group

The size of the circle reflects the population

Note: All data is from 2019 and includes meslin. Some circles approximated due to spacing.

Sources: Growth Lab, Harvard University (share of imports); World Bank (population and income groups)

Wheat imports of Russia and Ukraine as a percentage of each country’s total wheat imports, by income group

The size of the circle reflects the population

Note: All data is from 2019 and includes meslin. Some circles approximated due to spacing.

Sources: Growth Lab, Harvard University (share of imports); World Bank (population and income groups)

The 2019 trade data compiled and analyzed by the Harvard Growth Lab, which is based on country reports to the United Nations and represents the latest comprehensive trade data available, covers approximately 95% of global merchandise trade.

According to David Laborde, senior researcher at the International Food Policy Research Institute, the unique dynamics of each country will affect its ability to manage the loss of a key source of wheat imports. Egypt’s relatively diverse food basket and strategic wheat reserves can help it cope in the short term, he said, while an economically more vulnerable country like Yemen is likely to struggle to meet the import deficit.

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Soaring fuel prices may also give oil-exporting countries like Iraq more flexibility to pay for wheat, even at higher costs.

World food prices were rising before Russia invaded Ukraine. The conflict has sent shockwaves through a system already strained by disruptions to production and supply chains caused by the pandemic, among other factors.

“Normally our food systems are very resilient, and certainly more resilient today than they were 40 years ago,” Laborde said. “It’s really when you have a succession of problems that you start to suffer.”

Agricultural exports from Ukraine and Russia face different challenges. Ukraine suffered weeks of heavy shelling, with some residential areas and civilian infrastructure suffering heavy damage.

Most wheat, barley and sunflower exports are completed by February, according to the Food Research and Policy Institute, but Ukrainian corn exports generally remain strong from spring to early summer. Crops for the 2022 season are at risk, with sowing of barley starting in March and maize in April. Winter wheat is usually not sown until late summer.

The cultural calendar of Ukraine

Note: Approximate times are for the steppes of northern and southern Ukraine, including areas near Donetsk, Kharkiv and Odessa.

Source: United States Department of Agriculture

The cultural calendar of Ukraine

Note: Approximate times are for the steppes of northern and southern Ukraine, including areas near Donetsk, Kharkiv and Odessa.

Source: United States Department of Agriculture

The cultural calendar of Ukraine

Note: Approximate times are for the steppes of northern and southern Ukraine, including areas near Donetsk, Kharkiv and Odessa.

Source: United States Department of Agriculture

The cultural calendar of Ukraine

Note: Approximate times are for the steppes of northern and southern Ukraine, including areas near Donetsk, Kharkiv and Odessa.

Source: United States Department of Agriculture

The cultural calendar of Ukraine

Note: Approximate times are for the steppes of northern and southern Ukraine, including areas near Donetsk, Kharkiv and Odessa.

Source: United States Department of Agriculture

Russia, on the other hand, has been subject to severe economic sanctions by the international community, and hundreds of companies have said they are suspending or ending them.

German agricultural giant Bayer AG

said on Monday that he had stopped all spending in Russia and Belarus that was not directly related to the provision of essential items for civilians such as health and agricultural products; he warned he could withhold seeds for crops in Russia next year if the war in Ukraine continues.

The company said it had already provided Russian farmers with “essential agricultural inputs” for this year’s plantings “to alleviate additional pressure on the global food system” and would make a 2023 decision at a later date. later date.

Bayer added that it hoped Ukrainian farmers would be able to secure the 2022 harvest “as the planting window closes in just a few weeks.”

Even if Russia can withdraw this year’s crop, the sanctions make it almost impossible for many Western companies to do business there. It remains to be seen, however, whether the countries most dependent on Russian agricultural products will continue to import as usual or seek goods from elsewhere.

The conflict also has side effects on the prices people pay for food, such as higher transport costs due to fuel price inflation. Even before the invasion, farmers struggled to manage higher fertilizer costs. Russia, one of the world’s leading fertilizer suppliers, recently cut exports to secure supplies for the country’s farmers.

Besides supply, war and humanitarian crisis also pose a threat to regional food security. Food and basic supplies are running out in besieged Ukrainian cities. More than three million people have fled Ukraine since February 24, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as of mid-March. About half of the refugees are children.

Write to Andrew Barnett at [email protected]

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