(CNN) As the Razons left the Ukrainian port of Odessa on Monday with the first shipment of grain since the early days of Russia’s war in Ukraine, there were sighs of relief from Somalia to Turkey, Indonesia and China, given how reliant these countries have been on Ukrainian grain to meet their daily needs.
Millions of people have been pushed into starvation as Russia’s blockade has fueled soaring grain prices, which have hit record highs this year as more than 20 million metric tons of Ukrainian wheat and corn remain trapped in Odessa.
But even as a U.N.-brokered deal to end the embargo has reduced grain prices, experts say delayed shipments from Ukraine are not a quick fix for a crisis that has been accelerated by years of pandemic-related disruption, the climate crisis, conflicts, food export restrictions and spiraling costs.
All of these interacting factors “will remain for some time,” Laura Wellesley, a senior researcher at the Chatham House Program on Environment and Society, told CNN. “We may see food price peaks and food insecurity peaks again, but certainly not a resolution anytime soon.”
Global hunger has increased massively, from 135 million people acutely food insecure in 2019 to 345 million in 2022, according to the World Food Program (WFP). That includes “50 million people in 45 countries who are knocking on the door of hunger,” David Beasley, WFP’s executive director, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on July 20, as he called on other donor countries, such as the Gulf states, to step in in “avoid disaster.”
Today’s crisis is far worse than previous food price spikes in 2007-2008 and 2010-2012, which fueled unrest around the world, including revolutions in the Middle East.
Food safety experts have warned of huge geopolitical risk if action is not taken. This year we have already witnessed political destabilization in “Sri Lanka, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, riots and protests taking place in Kenya, Peru, Pakistan, Indonesia… these are only signs that things are going to be worse,” Beasley said.
In the Horn of Africa, a four-year drought has led to food insecurity and starvation, according to aid groups. On the same subject : Hinterland Music Festival 2022 lineup, location, dates and more. Somalia’s health facilities are seeing record levels of malnutrition after years of failed rainy seasons, doubling of wheat prices and the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ijabu Hassan lost three children to malnutrition this year, telling CNN her two-year-old daughter collapsed and died on their way to the capital, Mogadishu, to seek help.
“I cried so much,” she said, “I passed out.”
As desperate parents like Hassan plead for reprieve, the UN estimates that 7 million people – or more than half of Somalia’s population – simply do not have enough to eat.
Meanwhile, Afghans have seen their lives worsen since the Taliban seized power in 2021. After the United States’ rapid withdrawal from the country last August, Washington and its allies cut off international funding to the country, which had largely sustained aid for years, and froze about 7 billion dollars of the country’s foreign exchange reserves.
The economic crisis in Afghanistan has been looming for years, the result of poverty, conflict and drought. But this year, as below-average harvests have led to unprecedented levels of hunger across the country, long lines for aid have become ubiquitous even in middle-class neighborhoods of the capital, Kabul.
Years of conflict in countries like Somalia and Afghanistan have affected people’s ability to access food, and the climate crisis is only making the situation worse. Droughts in major crop-producing regions, such as Europe and North America, have pushed up food prices.
The extreme weather in parts of North Africa is a chilling reminder that, with or without a blockade, the food supply here is already very precarious. The region depends on wheat from Europe, especially Ukraine. Tunisia, for example, gets almost half of its wheat from the country to make its daily bread.
Data from EarthDaily Analytics, obtained using satellite images, shows how difficult it is for some nations here to cover any gap on their own. Looking at Morocco’s crop cover, the images suggest a “catastrophic wheat season” in the country, with production far lower than in recent years, due to a drought that began there in late 2021 and continued early this year.
Morocco gets a fifth of its wheat from Ukraine and more than 40% from France, according to Mickael Attia, crops analyst for EarthDaily Analytics.
“The current drought in North Africa, especially in Morocco, is deeply affecting their ability to produce their own crops, not to mention that Ukraine was one of the country’s biggest food exporters in the past. The replacement cost is very high and a struggle,” he said. Attia for CNN.
“The country needs imports for structural reasons — every year national consumption is far greater than production — and because the country is regularly exposed to extreme weather events, drought and climate change will make matters worse in the future.”
Ukraine’s wheat production is also expected to be 40% lower than last year, as its fields are affected by the war; fertilizer and pesticides are more difficult to obtain; but also because of the early spring cold pattern and dryness in the west of the country, Attia said, adding that the impacts could last until next year.
“If Ukrainian grain is partially, physically lacking due to low production and export difficulties then, it will lead to greater food insecurity this year and next year,” he said.
Other major wheat exporters have also been hit hard by extreme weather exacerbated by climate change. And France should produce 8% less wheat than last year, Attia said.
“May was dry in most of Europe and insanely hot in Western Europe, which particularly affected crops from France and Spain,” said Attia. “June was also a dry and hot month across much of Europe, accelerating yield declines in France, Spain and Romania.”
Pandemic and protectionism
Meanwhile, many countries’ efforts to alleviate food insecurity have been undone by the pandemic. It pushed the global economy into recession in 2020, disrupted supply chains and caused problems with employment and transportation. To see also : Appleton’s 2022 Mile of Music: 10 shows to watch at music festival. Governments began to face inflationary pressure and global food prices began to rise as production disruptions and strong demand from countries like China “really tightened the balance between supply and demand and pushed up prices,” Chatham House’s Wellesley said.
The economies of poorer countries were left in tatters, while middle-income countries were heavily indebted, limiting their governments’ ability to offer social safety nets and provisions to help the most vulnerable through this food crisis, she added.
In Peru and Brazil, people working in the large informal sector lost their savings and earning power during the pandemic quarantine. “So these people have gone from middle class to poor… in Brazil, the number of people living in severe food insecurity is extremely high,” Maximo Torero, chief economist of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), told CNN.
In 2021, a record 36% of Brazilians were at risk of starvation, surpassing the global average for the first time, according to the Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV), a Brazilian academic institution, which analyzed Gallup’s data.
The war brought home how much people and countries had come to rely on a complex and globalized commodity system. Europe’s dependence on Russian gas has exposed its vulnerability. While countries like Turkey, Egypt, Somalia, Congo and Tanzania are some of the most dependent on Ukrainian and Russian wheat, nations like Eritrea bought grain exclusively from those two countries in 2021.
Analysts suggest the supply chain crisis could lead to more localized or regional procurement strategies – but that could take time.
“Let me give you an example – Africa uses 3% of the world’s fertilizers,” Torero said, but Dangote’s fertilizer plant in Nigeria sends 95.5% of its product to Latin America. “Nothing stays in Africa. It is not that (the) Dangote factory does not want to export to Africa, but (because) there are too many barriers to export (to other parts of) Africa,” he said, adding that the infrastructure was poor and the risk tall.
Going the other way and imposing protectionist policies is also problematic. As food prices exploded after the Russian invasion, countries began restricting exports. India, the world’s largest sugar producer, has limited sugar exports to 10 million tons and banned wheat exports. Today, more than 20 countries have some sort of export restrictions in place, raising hopes that these items could help alleviate hunger elsewhere.
“It has the immediate effect of raising prices, but over time it erodes confidence and predictability in the global market,” Wellesley said.
Then there is the issue of fertilizer prices, which are still high because it is an energy-intensive production, and Russia and Ukraine are the main suppliers of its key components: urea, potash and phosphate.
Some analysts warn that, as the use of fertilizers decreases, we will have lower yields in 2023. And while the main concern has been grain supplies, some worry that rice production, a cornerstone of many diets in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, could take a hit from high fertilizer costs.
Even if there are currently large supplies of rice, protectionism and people turning to rice as a substitute for wheat could affect prices. “Sub-Saharan Africa imports the most rice in the world, so if the price of rice rises, then the most vulnerable countries will be significantly affected,” said FAO’s Torero.
The Razoni, a Sierra Leonean-registered ship currently en route to Lebanon, is carrying about 26,500 metric tons of maize. “To meet August 2021 delivery levels, we would have to see seven of those ships happen every day to get things back in place,” Jonathan Haynes, senior analyst at commodities data group Gro Intelligence, told CNN. . There is a lot of uncertainty as to whether that can happen, but the flow will undoubtedly “really increase”, he added.
The Ukrainian government and the Turkish Defense Ministry said that three more ships loaded with grain are expected to depart from Ukrainian Black Sea ports on Friday.
As and when wheat prices fall to pre-war levels, Torero worries that the return of Ukrainian and Russian grain to the markets could further reduce wheat prices and in the process impoverish poor farmers, who have borne the high costs of fertilizer and energy to plant their crops.
Just as the food crisis has had wide and varied impacts on people, the solutions are complex and multifaceted. These include improvements in the way fertilizers are used, investments in social safety nets, decoupling food production from dependence on fossil fuels while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and efforts to make the agricultural sector more resilient to global shocks by diversifying production and trade relations, experts say. .
“These all seem like things that should be dealt with on another day given the gravity of the situation. They’re not,” Wellesley said. “They are problems that contribute to today’s situation (and) will repeat themselves for years to come — especially as climate impacts continue to worsen.”