Russian War Against Ukraine is a Major Driver of Soaring Global Food Costs and Starvation

While it is convenient to blame the President of the United States for all that ails society, there are drawbacks to operating within an economically interdependent capitalist-driven market that cannot be manipulated from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Just as Joe Biden does not control global gas prices, neither does he control global food supply.

With the COVID-19 pandemic interrupting manufacturing supply chains, people are experiencing the impact other countries’ domestic affairs have on them.

The Russian war against Ukraine is demonstrating that a conflict half a world away can have devastating consequences for nations far removed from any bloodshed.

Known as the “breadbasket of the world,” Ukraine is the world’s sixth largest wheat exporter.

Before the Russian invasion, it shipped 4.5 million tonnes of agricultural produce through the Sea of Azov and Black Sea ports each month.

Now it ships only 1 to 1.5 million tonnes.

Couple that with sanctions against Russia, responsible along with Ukraine for nearly a third of the global wheat supply, and we are facing a global food crisis that will hit the poorest countries the hardest.

United States ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, explained:

“Their [Russia’s] blockade of ports not allowing food and wheat to leave Ukraine, their efforts to keep farmers from planting their farms, their attacks on food silos-all of this has contributed to an already dire situation.”

UN Secretary General António Guterres cautioned that 36 countries depend on Russia and Ukraine for more than half their wheat imports, including some of the poorest: Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Regarding discussions with Moscow, Ukraine, Turkey, the US, the European Union, and others, Guterres added:

“The complex security, economic and financial implications require goodwill on all sides for a package deal to be reached. I will not go into details because public statements could undermine the chances of success. Let’s be clear: there is no effective solution to the food crisis without reintegrating Ukraine’s food production. Russia must permit the safe and secure export of grain stored in Ukrainian ports.”

According to The Guardian:

“Prices have skyrocketed. The UN’s food and agricultural price index reached an all-time high of almost 160 points in March before falling 1.2 or 0.8% in April. Cereal and meat price indices also hit record highs in March. A year ago wheat was trading in Chicago at US674c per bushel. Today it fetches US1,242c per bushel in a near-doubling of the price driven and compounded by the lack of supply.”

This has led UN to consider establishing “safe corridors” for grain to be safely exported.

The problem with this is it would require Russia’s consent.

And Russia isn’t going to consent unless the UN lifts sanctions.

Another factor: drifting mines in the Black Sea.

A third consideration is the cost of insuring ships that have to pass through the shipping lanes.

We Americans are insulated from the rest of the world, we often forget there is a larger world on which we depend greatly.

Trade deals, for better or worse, have locked us into mutuality agreements with other countries that implicate us and impact our lifestyles whenever one of those countries suffers a setback.

Food supply is a major part of that web of interdependence.

While more economically developed countries like those in Europe and the United States have to merely contend with uncomfortable food prices, poorer countries are in danger of starving.

Originally published at https://theleftplace.substack.com on May 31, 2022.

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Ted Millar

Ted Millar

Ted Millar is a teacher, poet, and political writer for Liberal America and the Left Place blog on Substack: https://theleftplace.substack.com/.