The main topic of the latest issue of the print version of the influential publication The Economist was the famine caused by the fighting in Europe. Interestingly, at the beginning of the year, before the start of the special operation in Ukraine, the World Food Program warned that 2022 would be terrible. China, the world's largest wheat producer, said after rains delayed planting last year, this could be the worst crop ever. Now, in addition to extreme temperatures in India, the world's second-biggest producer, a lack of rain threatens to reduce yields in other breadbaskets, from America's wheat belt to France's Bos region. The Horn of Africa has been devastated by the worst drought in four decades. Welcome to the era of climate change, the newspaper writes, noting that now military conflict is destroying the global food system, already weakened by covid, climate change and the energy crisis.
- Export of grain and oil from Ukraine has been stopped. During the war, Ukraine mined its waters to deter an attack, and Russia continues to blockade the port of Odessa. Export from Russia is also under threat of suspension.
- Russia and Ukraine before the conflict supplied 12% of world food exports. Russia and Ukraine accounted for 28% of world trade in wheat, 29% in barley, 15% in corn and 75% in sunflower oil. Russia and Ukraine provided about half of the grain imported by Lebanon and Tunisia, and two-thirds of the grain imports for Libya and Egypt. Ukraine fed 400 million people all over the world.
- Wheat prices, up 53% year-to-date, jumped another 6% on May 16 after India said it would suspend selling its grain abroad due to severe drought.
- Due to rising prices, the number of people at risk increased by 440 million and amounted to 1.6 billion (of which 250 million are on the verge of starvation). World leaders must view hunger as a problem requiring an urgent global solution.
- All this will have dire consequences for poor countries. Households in emerging economies spend 25% of their budget on food, and up to 40% in sub-Saharan Africa. In Egypt, bread provides 30% of all calories consumed. In many importing countries, governments cannot afford subsidies to increase aid to the poor, especially if they also import energy.
- Ukrainian elevators, which were not affected by the hostilities, are full of corn and barley. Farmers have nowhere to store their next crop, due to start harvesting at the end of June, so it could rot. They also lack fuel and labor for sowing. Russia, in turn, will miss some of the stocks of seeds and pesticides it usually buys from the European Union.
- Despite the rapid rise in grain prices, farmers from other countries are unlikely to be able to make up for the deficit. Prices are not stable, and the increase in purchase prices is accompanied by an increase in prices for fertilizers and energy.
- The situation is worsened by the reaction of politicians. Since the outbreak of hostilities, 23 countries, from Kazakhstan to Kuwait, have announced severe restrictions on food exports.
Countries must act together, says The Economist. Europe should help Ukraine deliver grain by land to the ports of Romania or the Baltics, although even the most optimistic forecasts say that only 20% of the crop can be sent this way.
- Importing countries also need support. The IMF should provide concessional financing for the poorest countries. Debt relief can also help free up vital resources.
- Where else can I get food? About 10% of all world grain is used for the production of biofuels, 18% of vegetable oils are used for biodiesel. Finland and Croatia have already loosened rules requiring gasoline to include fuel from crops. Others should follow suit. A huge amount of grain is used to feed livestock - up to 13% of the dry feed for cattle in the world is cereals.
- Breaking the blockade of the Black Sea will be a key step. About 25 million tons of corn and wheat are stuck in Ukraine, which is equivalent to the annual consumption of all the least developed countries in the world. Three countries must resolve this issue: Russia must allow Ukrainian shipping, Ukraine must clear the approaches to Odessa, and Turkey must let a naval escort through the Bosphorus, the newspaper believes.
In addition to the material published by The Economist, we can add the results of the Selection 2.0 study conducted by the HSE in 2021: over the 10 years from 2010 to 2020, despite the import substitution program, the share of seeds of foreign selection in Russian agriculture is noticeably grew. Thus, the share of sown areas of corn sown with foreign seeds increased from 37 to 58%, sunflower - from 53 to 73%, and for sugar beet seeds, which in the 90s. practically not imported, the dependence is 98%. In wheat, the share of Russian seeds remains at the level of 98%, but in the next 10 years, the situation with wheat runs the risk of repeating the trajectory of other agricultural crops and qualitatively increasing dependence on seed imports.