A Problem of Plenty- How the Russia-Ukraine Conflict affects global food security

A Problem of Plenty- How the Russia-Ukraine Conflict affects global food security

Aarushi Gupta, Batch 20-22

Food security, as defined by the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, means that all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life.

Wars have disrupted agriculture throughout history. But the nature of Russia’s war in Ukraine—a war between two agricultural production powerhouses, in the context of globalized agricultural markets—presents never-before-seen consequences for global agriculture and food security.

Coupled with the disastrous effects of the Covid-19 pandemic along with other factors the conflict has driven up food prices all over the world. Poor harvests in South Africa, strong global demand and supply chain issues have reduced grain and oilseed inventories driving prices up to their highest levels since 2011-2013. The record prices of vegetable oil can be attributed to the fact that both Russia and Ukraine exports account for 12 percent of total calories traded in the world and the two countries are among the top five global exporters for many important cereals and oilseeds, including wheat, barley, sunflowers and maize. Ukraine is also an important source of sunflower seed oil, supplying about 50 percent of the global market.

The effects of the conflict can be classified into both short-term effects(which may be felt in the upcoming months) and long-term effects(structural effects, how it shapes economic policies in the long-run).
The conflict has led to harsh countermeasures by the EU, United States and other countries which might have large impacts on Russian exports of natural gas and fertilizers. Russian exports of natural gas account for about 20 percent of global trade and Russian supplies amount up to 40 percent of EU's present imports. The sanctions could clearly provoke Russia further and it could reduce supply further leading to further skyrocketing gas prices leading to a spill over in other key commodity costs and in the worst-case scenario Russia could simply turn off the gas leading to the suffering of people in cold.

Europe does not have clear alternatives to Russian natural gas, it might switch to other suppliers like the US but that would further add costs not providing a sustainable alternative. The conflict could put the energy markets and agriculture markets in a state of clear uncertainty and panic. It could slow down the effect of various economies in developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America and exacerbate the economic effects of Covid-19 in those countries leading to rising inflation, high interest rates, high fuel and commodity prices and economic malaise. To mitigate the effects of such scenario's the sanctions need to be carefully enforced on basis of international law and recognising the diverse national interests of different countries in order to protect global food security. A critical and broad-minded approach regarding food security is critical in ensuring that citizens all across the world are well fed.

• Glauber, J. and Laborde, D., 2022. How will Russia’s invasion of Ukraine affect global food security?. [online] Ifpri.org. Available at: <https://www.ifpri.org/blog/how-will-russias-invasion-ukraine-affect-global-food-security>
• Welsh, C., 2022. The Russia-Ukraine War and Global Food Security: A Seven-Week Assessment, and the Way Forward for Policymakers. [online] Csis.org. Available at: <https://www.csis.org/analysis/russia-ukraine-war-and-global-food-security-seven-week-assessment-and-way-forward#>