How the war in Ukraine threatens food security around the world

If Russian oil and gas are at the heart of concerns in Europe, Ukrainian wheat threatens global food security. Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Ukrainian wheat exports have been almost zero due to the blockade of the country’s ports. A reality that is a real threat to dependent regions, such as the Middle East and North Africa, but also to countries such as France, which will face rising prices for various food products. We explain why.

Read also: The war in Ukraine. What is Vladimir Putin playing with his cynical blackmail of wheat?

Few of the wheat exporters in the world

Ukrainian soil, which has come under attack in recent months, is considered one of the most cultivated in the world. According to the data of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UNAA), in 2019, almost 60% of Ukrainian land is used for crops. For comparison, this is a much higher rate than in France (35%) or even the United States (18%).

For wheat, the main grain, Ukraine grew just over 28 million tons in 2019, 1% of the three billion tons of wheat planted worldwide during the same year.

However, about half of those 28 million tons of Ukrainian wheat were exported to feed other parts of the world. That is 8% of total world wheat exports in 2019.

Very few countries are able to produce more wheat than they eat. On the other hand, there are too many countries that need grain and cannot produce it. The largest wheat producers in the world are China and India, but they do not export because they need to feed their people,” Bruno Parmentier, engineer and economist, former director of the School of Agricultural Engineering in Angers explains.

“As for Ukraine, its population is only 40 million people with an area one and a half times the size of urban France, with land that is among the best in the world. Therefore, the possibility of practicing agriculture in Ukraine is so strong that its flag is still a yellow wheat field under a blue sky . »

If the weight of Ukrainian wheat is not insignificant in world exports, then Ukraine occupies an even more important place for sunflower oil and corn: 40% of the world’s sunflower oil exports are Ukrainian, a rate that rises to 14% for corn.

The following is the share of Ukraine and Russia in exports of various food products:

“According to satellite estimates, we will have 30% less harvest in Ukraine this year, between fields not planted due to the war in eastern Ukraine and fields that have been planted but not with much fertilizer”Economist Bruno Parmentier explains.

The rise in wheat prices has multiple repercussions in France

What is the effect of this on the French painting? In France, a country that is also one of the world’s largest wheat exporters, there is no need to worry about a shortage of this grain.

“France is a very large surplus country. It produces three times as much wheat as it eats. Even if we have a bad harvest this year mainly related to drought, the French do not have to worry. Of course there will be bread in the bakeries”Economic reassures.

In fact, according to UNAA data, France imported less than 2,500 tons of Ukrainian wheat in 2019. A figure that represents only 0.01% of France’s domestic supply.

“What will happen in France, in the context of the general market, is a slight increase in the price of bread and a larger increase in the price of pasta, because of the different weights of the price of wheat in the two producers”deciphers Bruno Parmentier.

Unfortunately, the issue will not stop there for the French. “So it is raising animals, such as chickens, pigs, etc., that will have difficulty. They eat just like us, they eat grains and legumes. For example, for pigs, 70% of the price of a pig is what the pig eats. When the price of pig food is doubled, the price of pig food is doubled. “70% of the costs are doubled. So a massive increase in the price of wheat and corn would be a disaster for these breeders.”

According to the economist, a tension is expected on poultry and pig prices starting in the fall.

Read also: G7 criticizes India’s decision to ban wheat exports

The Middle East and North Africa… Hunger Hotspots

If the French are faced with an increase in consumer prices, then hunger is getting worse in the countries of the South. As shown in the map above, the Middle East and North Africa are the regions most dependent on Ukrainian wheat as well as Russian wheat.

Specifically, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, Yemen, Turkey, Tunisia and Armenia import at least half of their wheat from Ukraine and Russia.

According to estimates by the World Food Program (WFP), the UN agency that intervenes in emergency food aid situations, with the conflict in Ukraine, an additional 47 million people are expected to suffer an acute phase of hunger in more than 80 countries around the world. Globalism.

There are also concerns about the financial resources for WFP’s operations. In the global post-Covid context and with the impact of the war in Ukraine, the prices of food purchased by the United Nations for its operations are on average 50% higher than in 2019. This entails additional costs of $71 million per month compared to 2019 for For the UN agency, confirms Marie DaSilva, press officer with the World Food Program.

“The fear of the organization is having to make choices that serve all of humanity. Now, it is true that when a situation arises in which we do not have sufficient resources, Marie DaSilva says, We must, says the Executive Director of the World Food Program, take food from the hungry and give it to the hungry. This means that we are forced to choose who will receive assistance based on the severity of their situation. This is the worst-case scenario the WFP faces. »

How the war in Ukraine threatens food security around the world

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