Unprecedented global hunger wave at risk as Ukraine’s food harvests worse than expected Business News

The world is facing an unprecedented wave of famine and hunger triggered by yet another ‘explosive’ rise in food prices, experts have warned, after new figures revealed how war in Ukraine will decimate supplies world in wheat.

Forecasts provided exclusively to The Independent suggest that Russia’s brutal campaign, including its blockade of vital Ukrainian ports, is likely to cause even deeper disruptions to food supplies than previously feared.

Wheat production is now expected to be halved this year – a far worse outcome than previously forecast, said MHP, one of Ukraine’s largest exporters.

More worryingly, Ukraine will export less than a quarter of the amount of wheat it exported last year, according to the company.

If the predictions prove correct, the world market will be deprived of some 43 million tonnes of wheat – enough to cover the UK’s total consumption for almost six years.

The estimates, compiled in conjunction with Ukraine’s agriculture ministry, mean greater disruption to global food supply chains, which could put the lives of millions of people in places such as South Africa at risk. ‘East, which is heavily dependent on grain imports from Russia and Ukraine.

It would also raise prices for consumers in the UK, who are already facing a cost of living crisis that threatens to push 1.3million people into absolute poverty.

The predictions come as the UN warned that failure to open Ukrainian ports and allow shipments of wheat and other vital commodities would amount to a ‘declaration of war on global food security’.

Matthew Hollingworth, coordinator of the UN World Food Program in Ukraine, said the world now faces “an unprecedented crisis, a landmark crisis”.

” It’s huge. Food insecure populations will simply not be able to afford their staple food, which for many people is bread,” he said.

Ukraine’s grain exports feed around 400 million people, many of them in regions that cannot produce their own food. East Africa imports 90% of its wheat from Ukraine and Russia. Oxfam estimates that one person dies of hunger every 48 seconds in this drought-ravaged region.

Russia and Ukraine also supply around two-thirds of the cereals imported by Libya and Egypt, and half of the cereals imported by Lebanon and Tunisia.

Horn of Africa faces famine as wheat prices rise

(AFP via Getty)

Eric Munoz, Oxfam’s senior policy adviser for agriculture, said hunger levels were rising before Russia invaded Ukraine, but the war had made the situation “catastrophically” worse.

“The populations most at risk are teetering towards famine,” he said, citing Somalia, Yemen and Afghanistan, among others.

“People have very few options and have exhausted their coping strategies, such as selling their assets. We also see very high levels of hunger in West Africa, and even in middle-income countries like Lebanon.

Around 25 million tonnes of grain are stored in Ukraine, taking up vital space for this year’s harvest, which begins in just six weeks.

Fears are growing that farmers unable to sell their crops because of the Russian blockade will plant less this year, worsening the global shortage.

25 million tonnes of grain are stored in Ukraine, taking up vital space for this year’s harvest


Even if Russia agreed to lift the blockade, it would be months before shipments out of Ukraine could resume at levels comparable to previous levels, Hollingworth said.

Clearing mines and wreckage from sunken ships near ports like Odessa would be “extremely complicated and resource-intensive”, he said. Businesses may also be reluctant or unable to move goods due to lingering security fears and difficulty obtaining insurance.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned this week that there is “no effective solution to the food crisis without reintegrating Ukraine’s food production”.

However, industry leaders in Ukraine are increasingly pessimistic about the prospect of ports reopening to trade this year, and say land routes through Poland and Romania can barely take a quarter of the quantity that is normally shipped.

MHP, one of Ukraine’s largest wheat exporters, now expects production to be barely half of last year’s level, with the winter harvest reduced by around 20 million tonnes and the harvest summer of 35 million tons.

The MHP estimates that a fifth of Ukraine’s grain storage capacity – some 15 million tonnes – has been destroyed or occupied by the Russian military, further complicating efforts to revive exports from a region which supplies 29% of the cereals marketed in the world.

“This is a serious situation,” said John Rich, chairman of MHP’s board of directors. “We are coming out of the back of the pandemic, we have a war, climate change and China is blocking its ports, which is causing logistical problems.

“So you have the…

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This notice was published: 2022-05-22 17:25:51

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