The consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine may be felt in the form of hunger for millions of people living thousands of miles from the warring nations.
In a detailed analysis of all the risks involved in the war between the two agricultural superpowers, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) describes a panorama of price increases that it would cause, in its simulations, that “the global number of malnourished people could increase between 8 and 13 million in 2022/2023, with the most pronounced increases in the region of Asia-Pacific, followed by Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East and North Africa”.
The report recalls that the opposing countries are among the main exporters of wheat, corn, rapeseed, pipes and sunflower oil, and that Russia is also the world’s number one supplier of nitrogenous fertilizers, and the two of phosphate and potash fertilizers. All of them products, recalls the FAO, on which many developing countries depend. A collapse in supply from the Black Sea region “could only be partially offset by other suppliers in 2022/2023 & rdquor ;, which could “increase international food and feed prices between 8% and 22% above the already high current levels & rdquor ;.
Destruction and blockade
The FAO notes that the war has already caused serious disruptions in Ukraine that may be further exacerbated by the damage to land and sea transport infrastructure, and also “the conflict may make it impossible for farmers to tend their crops & rdquor ;: their calculations estimate that “between a 20% and 30% of the cereal areas winter, corn and sunflower from Ukraine may not be sown or harvested in the 2022/2023 season & rdquor ;. On the Russian side, “there is a lot of uncertainty about future exports […] in light of the difficulties in sales that may arise as a result of the economic sanctions imposed on the country & rdquor ;.
The document also examines the consequences for agriculture and food of the rise in energy prices caused by the conflict: it increases the price of food because it is a fundamental component of agricultural tasks and fertilizers, and also because it diverts products such as corn or sugar cane from food use to bioenergy production. The monetary consequences of the war also affect food, not only because of the collapse of the Russian ruble and the Ukrainian hryvnia for those countries, but also because the appreciation of the dollar make food purchases more expensive to developing countries.
Faced with this bleak panorama, the FAO recommends that the countries affected by the consequences of the conflict measure their actions very well by their “possible detrimental effects on international markets.” Singularly, it asks the rest of the countries to avoid restrictions on exports of agricultural products, because “they exacerbate price volatility, limit the buffer capacity of world markets and have a negative impact in the medium term.”
The organization also calls for the protection of crops and the rest of the agri-food sector and industry in the conflict zone and for the preservation of their supply chains and international food and feed trade, and urges countries that depend on Russian and Ukrainian exports to diversify your supply sources. It also requires countries that receive war refugees to adapt their social care system to protect them and to lift legal restrictions to facilitate their access to jobs and aid.