UN warns of potential global food crisis due to Russia-Ukraine conflict

The Russia-Ukraine conflict could lead to a global food crisis that will hit developing countries the hardest, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned in Stockholm.  Guterres met with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson to discuss the security situation in Europe, recovery from the pandemic and the green transition on the day.  Speaking at a press conference following the meeting, Guterres said the food crisis cannot be resolved effectively unless Russia’s manure and food production, and Ukraine’s food production can reach world markets again.

Guterres also called for swift decisions to counter the food crisis that could arise from the conflict, putting developing countries most at risk.  During his previous visit to Senegal, Guterres noted that the Ukraine crisis can have a dramatic impact on the economies of developing countries, and is aggravating a “triple food, energy and financial crisis” across Africa.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Russia and Ukraine are the world’s largest and fifth-largest wheat exporters, respectively. Together, they provide 19 % of the world’s barley supply, 14 % of wheat and 4 % of maize, making up more than one third of global cereal exports.

In Ukraine, which is known as the breadbasket of Europe, the conflict has left unharvested wheat that was planted months ago, while maize and sunflowers sown when the conflict broke out were left unfertilized.

It is estimated that Ukraine’s grain production may fall by more than 50 percent in the current season.  Moreover, Russia is the leading producer of fertilizers, accounting for 13 % of global production. Restrictions on Russian fertilizer exports due to U.S. sanctions have led to a surge in global fertilizer prices. This has forced farmers in Brazil, the United States and other major agricultural countries to reduce their use of fertilizers, which could affect future harvests.

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