Monday, 4 July, 2022

Ukraine War Shrinks Food Supplies, Hikes Prices

Many countries face food security challenges

Bangladesh, Brazil, Argentina rely on Russian fertiliser for their crops

Many countries face food security challenges

The Ukraine war has created food security challenges for many countries, especially for low-income food import-dependent ones and vulnerable population groups, according to Qu Dongyu, director-general of the UN agriculture agency, reports UNB.

He was addressing a three-day meeting Friday on the fallout from Russia's invasion of Ukraine and its wider impact on food and energy prices.

Under the theme "securing global food security in times of crisis," Qu told agriculture ministers from the G7 nations in Stuttgart, Germany, that the most significant threats stem from conflict, and the associated humanitarian impact, together with multiple overlapping crises.

Based on the Global Report on Food Crises released on May 4, last year around 193 million people in 53 countries or territories were officially in the crisis phase or worse.

Other 2021 data revealed that 570,000 people in four countries were in the category of the catastrophe phase.

Just over 39 million in 36 countries faced emergency conditions and more than 133 million in 41 countries were in the crisis phase. A total of 236.2 million people in 41 countries were living in stressed conditions.

Price increases always have food security implications, particularly for the poorest, Qu said.

On top of already "high prices driven by robust demand and high input costs" resulting from Covid recovery, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) chief noted Ukraine and Russia as important players in global commodity markets, saying uncertainty surrounding the war has prompted further price increases.

Wheat, maize, and oilseed prices have surged in particular.

At 160 points, the FAO Food Price Index reached its highest level ever in March, averaged 158.2 points in April and remains today at a historical high.

Since the start of the conflict in February, export forecasts for Ukraine and Russia have been revised down as other market players, notably India and the European Union, have increased exports.

This partly compensated for the exports "lost" from the Black Sea region, leaving a relatively modest gap of about three million tonnes, said the FAO chief.

Wheat export prices surged in March, continued to edge upwards in April, and will likely "remain elevated in the coming months, said Qu.

He called on governments to "refrain from imposing export restrictions, which can exacerbate food price increases and undermine trust in global markets."

Turkey, Egypt, Eritrea, Somalia, Madagascar, Tanzania, Congo, Namibia and other countries dependent on Ukraine and Russia for wheat have been greatly impacted.

These countries need to identify new suppliers, which could pose a significant challenge, at least in the next six months, said the FAO chief.

At the same time – with levels ranging from 20 to more than 70 percent – Bangladesh, Brazil, Argentina, and other nations, are reliant on Russian fertiliser for their crops.    While Africa overall accounts for only three to four percent of global fertiliser consumption, Cameroon, Ghana and Ivory Coast are among the most vulnerable countries, relying heavily on Russian supplies.

"We need to assure that key food-exporting countries have access to the needed fertilisers to assure sufficient food availability for the next year," said the top FAO official, encouraging all countries to improve fertiliser efficiency, including through soil maps and improved application.

"The FAO stresses the need to support the continuity of farming operations within Ukraine; while supporting agri-food value chains."