Pre-pandemic era, pre-Ukraine war months, the Ukraine referred to as the “Breadbasket of Europe” and of course Russia, thrived on agricultural activities suppling the world with wheat, other grains, vegetables, oils, seeds and meats. According to the CIA World Factbook, the Ukraine was producing 25% of staple foods for across the globe. By 2022, this figure had risen to 30%. Ukraine produced for nations across the globe. In addition to the pure grain production, there is food processing and especially sugar processing. Over a quarter of the Ukraine population was employed in agricultural and forestry activities.
Today, these figures are all aschew as the grain fields have all been turned into war zones. Food production at all levels is halted, squashed and destroyed.
So, this conflict between the Ukraine and Russia is not a self-contained, isolated disagreement between two nations. The impact of this destructive action will give rise to the largest food crisis the globe as yet to face. The globe is very dependent on these rich, fertile soils of the Black Sea region. Not only are the Ukrainian pushed into total insecure situations, but this will eventually spill across the globe raising enormous concerns of food insecurity and impoverishment.
The Ukrainian people are fleeing, fighting, foraging to deal with their present infliction, while the rest of the globe are sitting as spectators, fearful of action and the consequences. Whether the world is directly involved in the conflict zone or not, the consequences are going to be the same. Global food shortages. While the global breadbasket has been shut-down, the Russian production line of global food supply, is subjected to global sanctions. That nation will also be part of the global impacted by the food crisis as well as a failing nation unable to contribute to global food demands.
As yet, the actual global access to food supplies have not diminished but the pricing soared by 55% in the weeks leading up to the conflict state in this region. This conflict has been raging now for over five weeks. Such food prices have not been seen since 2011, and now the two global producers (over one-third of global supply) of wheat, barley and other grains are in a state of conflict.
Can the situation across the globe be spelt out more clearly? Egypt is the largest wheat importer where a nation of nearly 106 million people relies heavily on imported grains, where one-third of the existing population in this land is already struggling to survive at poverty levels.
The mathematics in war situations are simple. Conflict equates with shortages. Shortages equate with price inflations. Increased prices mean greater poverty. Poverty leads to more hunger and starvation especially in poorer nations while more developed nations incur greater expenses and inflation, and result in poorer sectors of their communities also.
One can move from nation to nation that are heavy importers of grain whether for basic breads, a staple food in most nations, for noodles in the east, for animal feed, all will be impacted. Along with the sunflower oils and processed foods. Both the Ukraine and Russia contribute around 70% of the global sunflower market which makes up about 10 percent of the global oil industry.
The consequences of the current Ukraine-Russia conflict will have dramatic impacts across the globe for all nations at one level or another. This may influence nations to be far more pro-active in seeking diplomatic solutions to conflict in the “breadbaskets of the globe”.