Food prices have reached an all-time high in the Spring and Summer of 2022 because of the war in Ukraine, and farmers around the globe are facing substantially increasing fertiliser prices. These effects are not distributed evenly, with the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa suffering the most from the fall in grain exports from Ukraine. Meanwhile, Pakistan and India are suffering the impact of severe drought on local food production. For millions of people, hunger and the risk of starvation are becoming a reality.
Although Russia and Ukraine signed a deal in Istanbul to resume Ukrainian grain exports, the Russian missile strikes on the port of Odesa while the ink of the agreement was still wet shows how fragile this agreement is. Other attempts are being made as well to find a way to get the wheat that is stored in the Black Sea harbours onto global markets, but no easy solution is in sight.
Export problems in Ukraine
Russia and Ukraine play a crucial role in the international food chain as significant exporters of agricultural products. Before the war they supplied up to 6 per cent of the food calories available on the international market. Russia and Ukraine are particularly big exporters of certain produce: last year, the three largest exporters of sunflower seed products (80%), wheat (30%) and maize (15%) globally included one of these two countries. And in 2021, Ukraine was the largest supplier of food aid provided through the World Food Programme (WFP). The protracted war in Ukraine is having a dire impact on these exports.
Can Russia be trusted on the grain deal?
The recently concluded ‘grain deal’ could be an important first step towards restoring the Ukrainian grain exports from its Black Sea ports. However, the conflicted interests of the parties involved have so far posed a challenge to finding a short-term solution for the problem at hand, and leave little room for optimism going forward.
This Clingendael Alert will discuss the (possible) implications for the Netherlands and the European Union (EU) and whether and how they can act to alleviate the food insecurity due to the war in Ukraine.