According to a report published last night by the UN, global food prices surged to their highest ever levels in March due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Cooking oils, cereals, and meats achieved all-time highs, implying that food commodities cost a third more than they did a year ago. But sadly, the rise in food prices is just beginning of a crisis spiraling out of control.
President Biden recently said that many countries could experience food shortages due to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. "It's going to be real. Both Russia and Ukraine have been the breadbasket of Europe in terms of wheat."
The President is correct. Russia is the largest exporter of wheat worldwide, according to Al Jazeera. Ukraine is also a big wheat exporter, accounting for seven percent of global sales in 2019. And since many Ukrainian ports have been closed due to the Russian invasion, wheat exports will inevitably face disruption.
Arif Husain, the chief economist at the UN World Food Programme, warned that global food shortages could occur soon. "If this war doesn't get sorted out in the next couple of weeks, things will get even worse. That means Ukraine will not be able to plant corn. The winter wheat in the ground will not be fertilized, and the harvest sharply reduced. That's a real danger. They are a country of 40 million people, but they produce food for 400 million. That's the reality of a globalized world. We are all in this together."
In related news, Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed that sanctions placed on his country could spark a global food crisis. According to Reuters, Russia may limit food exports to hostile nations that imposed sanctions (such as the United States). "We will have to be more careful about food supplies abroad, especially carefully monitor the exports to countries which are hostile to us," Putin said.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says that high food prices are likely to have big consequences for low-income households around the world. "Price increases are the most noticeable in the countries where the share in disposable income spent on food is the highest. In these cases, the most vulnerable are likely to skip meals, purchase less nutritious foods, or use other coping strategies, which will have long term effects on their health and wellbeing."
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