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The war in Ukraine threatens the world’s wheat supply


Mar 11, 2022
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Ukraine’s relentless shelling is obscuring a shadow crisis created by the war: long-term damage to the global food system that is likely to increase hunger, disrupt markets, alter land and water use, and potentially even increase atmospheric carbon. hand off.

Russia and Ukraine are the breadbasket of Europe; the International Food Policy Research Institute estimates that their exports represent 12 percent of all food calories traded in the world. The two countries account for nearly 30 percent of global wheat exports, nearly 20 percent of corn exports and more than 80 percent of the world’s sunflower oil supply. Those exports have stalled for various reasons – in Ukraine due to the Russian invasion and in Russia due to global sanctions – but the net effect is the same. It’s as if Iowa and Illinois, the heart of American grain production, have been ripped off the map.

The first signs of that damage appeared this week. The first monthly assessment of world food crops, published by the US Department of Agriculture since the start of the war, predicted that Russian and Ukrainian wheat exports would fall by at least 7 million tons this year. At the same time, the Ukrainian cabinet voted to ban all wheat exports, along with shipments of oats, millet, buckwheat and livestock, requiring their products to stay at home for the needs of their own people.

“This crisis is beyond the normal ability to distribute supplies,” said Scott Irwin, an agricultural economist and professor in the University of Illinois’ College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at Urbana-Champaign. “We’ve exploded that system and the cost will be extreme economic pain.”

The harvest crisis in Ukraine has several components. Goods that have already been harvested, for example the maize from last fall, cannot leave the country; ports and shipping routes have been closed and international trading companies have ceased operations for safety. (Plus, while those crops are in bins, the destruction of the country’s electrical grid takes away the temperature controls and ventilation that keep them from spoiling.) This year’s wheat, which will be ready in July, cannot be harvested if there is no fuel for combines and no labor to run them. Farmers wrestle with whether to plant for next season – whether they can even get seeds and fertilizer, for which stocks are needed look unsure† (Russia is the world’s largest fertilizer exporter; it suspended shipments last week.)

Global food prices soared to all-time highs before the war even started, thanks to the pressures the Covid pandemic put on supply chains, and wheat prices are now at an all-time high. a peak of 14 years† Analysts worry that the countries that buy the most wheat from Ukraine – mainly in Africa and the Middle East – will have the hardest time paying as prices rise.

Palestinian workers work at a wheat mill, in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, on March 1, 2022. The Russian invasion of Ukraine could mean less bread on the table in Palestine, Lebanon, Yemen and elsewhere in the Arabs. Photo: Majdi Fathi/Getty Images

This post The war in Ukraine threatens the world’s wheat supply

was original published at “https://www.wired.com/story/the-war-in-ukraine-is-threatening-the-breadbasket-of-europe”

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