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Russia Ukraine War Caused the Worst Food Crisis Since WW2, says UN Food Chief

The executive director of the United Nations World Food Program, David Beasley, told the United Nations Security Council that already high food prices are soaring.

Binita Kumari
The executive director of the United Nations World Food Program, David Beasley, told the United Nations Security Council that already high food prices are soaring.
The executive director of the United Nations World Food Program, David Beasley, told the United Nations Security Council that already high food prices are soaring.

Many of the Ukrainian farmers who produce a significant amount of the world's wheat are now fighting against Russia, due to which the United Nations' food chief on Tuesday warned that the war in Ukraine has created "a catastrophe on top of a catastrophe" that will have a global impact "beyond anything we've seen since World War II."

The executive director of the United Nations World Food Program, David Beasley, told the United Nations Security Council that already high food prices are soaring.

Before Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24, his organization was feeding 125 million people around the world, but Beasley said it had to start rationing them due to increased food, fuel, and shipping expenses.

"Now we're looking at getting to zero rations," he said, referring to the war-torn Yemen, where 8 million people recently had their food allowance reduced in half.

According to Beasley, the war in Ukraine is turning "the breadbasket of the world" into "breadlines" for millions of people, while also wreaking havoc on countries like Egypt, which gets 85 percent of its grain from Ukraine, and Lebanon, which will get 81 percent in 2020.

The worst rise in global food prices since the Great Recession looms big over the world as Russia invades Ukraine, one of the world's largest breadbaskets. Moscow's attack on Ukraine has the potential to escalate the situation, worsen the global hunger crisis, and cause political unrest far beyond the conflict zone.

Food prices were already rising rapidly over the world due to supply chain disruptions and pandemic-related inflation.

However, as a result of the Ukraine crisis, some prices—particularly wheat—have skyrocketed, upending calculations of the world's available food supply and leading to flour rationing in parts of the Middle East.

Together, Ukraine and Russia produce approximately 30% of the world's traded wheat and 12% of its calories. Without them, soaring food prices and shortages could trigger a wave of unrest not seen since the Arab Spring of 2012.

Grain exports from both nations have been almost stopped as a result of the war.

And, because the two countries (together with Russia's sanctioned ally Belarus) supply massive amounts of fertilizer, Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine could have an impact on every farmer on the planet this year and for the foreseeable future.

According to a report released recently by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food and feed prices could rise by up to 22% above current levels owing to the war.

In terms of real-world inflation, prices are approaching those of the global food crisis of 2007 and 2008, when droughts, the growth of biofuels, and a barrage of trade protectionism combined to produce the worst food inflation since the Soviet grain crisis of the 1970s.

Large grower countries such as Australia, Argentina, India, and the United States, according to the FAO, could make up for a portion of the grain shortages in Ukraine and Russia in the short term.

According to the FAO's preliminary estimates, 20% to 30% of wheat, corn, and sunflower seed crops in Ukraine will either not be planted or will go unharvested during the 2022-2023 season due to the fighting.

China, which is suffering its worst wheat crop in decades as a result of severe flooding, plans to purchase a large portion of the world's shrinking supply.

And, despite only exporting a modest amount of wheat, India has already seen overseas demand more than triple in comparison to last year.

While almost every country will see higher prices, certain areas may struggle to find food at all.

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