The risk of food shortages increased from already high levels because of the conflict in Ukraine, said leading world agencies.

The number of severely food insecure people has doubled in two years – from 135 million pre-pandemic to 276 million today, the United Nations said. More than half a million now experience famine conditions – an increase of more than 500% since 2016.

“These frightening figures are inextricably linked with conflict, as both cause, and effect,” he said. “If we do not feed people, we feed conflict,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, said.

Impact of war

In fact, together Ukraine and Russia produce almost a third of the world’s wheat and barley and half of its sunflower oil. In addition, Russia and Belarus are the world’s number two and three producers of potash, a key ingredient of fertilizer. The ongoing conflict could intensify shortages of these key commodities – with prices already high.

In the past year, global food prices rose by nearly one-third, fertilizer by more than half, and oil prices by almost two-thirds.  “There is no effective solution to the food crisis without reintegrating Ukraine’s food production,” Guterres said. Food and fertilizer that Russia and Belarus produces also must integrate into world markets, despite the war.

World Bank president David Malpass told the BBC that there could be a huge 37% jump in food prices.

He said countries must focus on increasing supplies across the world of fertilisers and food. They should also target assistance for the very poorest people.

Covid’s broken supply chains

 In fact, the pandemic had a big impact on the risk of food security because it broke important links in global supply chains.

Deloitte says that crops are rotting in the fields. Europe’s asparagus growers, for instance, are short of staff because Eastern European workers cannot come to farms due to border restrictions. Transport lines also face stricter controls at the border and air freight has become too expensive to carry some produce. In addition, food processing plants are scaling back or shutting down due to containment measures or staff shortages.

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