Ukraine produces a huge amount of the world’s wheat, the sixth-largest exporter in 2021. This year, their wheat production is estimated to be reduced by at least 35%, which will have a huge knock-on effect on the global food market. The ramifications are already being felt - in March global wheat prices went up by 20%.
On top of this, Ukraine and Russia are both huge exporters of fertiliser, making it difficult for farmers in other countries to access the product and once again driving up prices. Ukraine is attempting to prevent exports of many items, in order to preserve their supplies. This is also being exacerbated by Russia preventing other exports from occurring from Ukraine’s borders.
Another huge issue is the shortage of sunflower oil. Ukraine and Russia combined produce 62% of the world’s sunflower oil and after the invasion, the price of this oil went up by 60%. There have been huge shortages of the product. Not only have shoppers not been able to get their hands on it, producers of items such as crisps and chips are facing huge shortages and in some cases are having to adapt recipes. In turn, this has ramped up the demand for alternative oil, causing more shortages and price increases. As with any crisis, this has also led to panic buying which has only made shortages in supermarkets worse.
As worrying as this crisis is in the UK, the impacts of these shortages are being felt far more severely elsewhere. Over 40% of wheat and corn from Ukraine goes to Africa and the Middle East, meaning that shortages are more extreme in these areas. Many of the countries affected are already struggling with issues of hunger and poverty, and now there is less to go around. Prices are also increasing for buyers, meaning that millions of the world’s poorest people are now facing even more of a struggle when it comes to buying food.
The farmers in several African countries are also struggling as a result of increases in the prices of fuel and fertiliser. This means that not only are less imports coming into this part of the world, but it is also becoming harder to produce food nationally.
It is evident that the war in Ukraine is having a huge global impact, ranging across many sectors. Though it seems this crisis has only just begun, the toll it has already taken on food production serves as a warning of the widespread devastation that the conflict is causing.