The war in Ukraine is still going on and is increasingly putting our food security at risk, said Mario Lubetkin, Deputy Director – General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). “Producing enough food will be the challenge for 2023”.
Now that the war has been going on for almost four months, the numbers do not bode well: Rising food prices are a cause for concern, especially for poorer countries. The potential shortage of certain raw materials can lead to instability in different countries, increasing domestic and foreign migration.
Wheat and sunflower seeds
Russia and Ukraine together account for 30 percent of world wheat and corn exports and 63 percent of sunflower seeds. According to experts, the shortage of these crops will increase to three million tons this year despite increased exports from other countries such as India.
Rising energy and fertilizer prices will lead to tens of thousands of people facing hunger, adding their numbers to the 811 million people already suffering from hunger by 2020.
Incidentally, that number has only increased since the Covid-19 pandemic, with more than 100 million people in 2021, to be exact.
Last year, according to a recent study by the FAO and the World Food Program (WFP), 193 million people in 53 countries – almost 40 million more than in 2020 – were unsure whether they would find enough food every day. Most of them also had to rely on daily help to get food.
Famine alarm bells are ringing in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.
It will be the most vulnerable countries in Africa and Asia that will pay the highest price if there is further scarcity on the way, even though many European countries are 100 percent dependent on Russian fertilizer, the world’s largest exporter of this product.
This is the case for Estonia, Finland, Lithuania and Serbia, while countries such as Slovenia, Northern Macedonia, Norway, Poland and a few others are also dependent on Russian fertilizer.
In addition, about 50 other countries in the rest of the world are at least 30 percent dependent on fertilizer imports from Russia.
Imports of wheat
Egypt and Turkey, on the other hand, are hard-hit countries because they are heavily dependent on imported wheat and maize from European countries at war, as well as from some African countries such as the Congo, Eritrea, Madagascar, Namibia, Somalia and Tanzania.
In terms of higher food prices, there are nations like Lebanon where the price increase has already exceeded 300 percent. But also more developed countries are experiencing the conflict, for example Germany, where prices have risen by 12 percent, and the United Kingdom, where they have risen by more than 6 percent.
A reduction in food production can also quickly lead to a decline in food quality, which in turn can lead to an increase in the obesity epidemic, which already affects more than 600 million people, while more than 2 billion people are overweight, which is it increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
“We must ensure that the global trading system remains open and that exports of agricultural products are not hampered by restrictions or taxes,” said FAO Director Qu Dongyu.
According to Qu, there is a need to increase investment in countries affected by rising food prices. We must do everything we can to prevent waste, and we must use water and fertilizer more efficiently.
In addition, there is also a need to promote social and technological innovation, which can significantly reduce market distortions in the agricultural sector and improve social protection and support for the farmers hardest hit by this crisis.
FAO chief economist Máximo Torero also recently recalled our organization’s proposal to create the Food Imports Financing Facility, a $ 9 billion global instrument that will deliver the full 100 percent of food costs to the hardest hit countries by 2022.