Both Ukraine and Russia form a massive share of the global bread and oil basket. The International Trade Centre shows that these two countries provide at least 25% of global wheat requirements. They also supply around a fifth of corn, and around 60% of the world’s sunflower, safflower and cotton seed oil. Russia also exports approximately 13% of the world’s fertilisers, an important agricultural input. However, the ongoing conflict, sadly, is severely de-stabilising food systems. Food production, storage, distribution and transport in these two countries is being adversely impacted, while their exports have also been hit hard.
This means escalating food prices and massive food shortages, the knock-on effects of which will be felt in countries that depend significantly on staple grains, oil and seed imports from these two countries. Ultimately, people living in extreme poverty will bear the brunt of this. At the start of 2021, around 45 million people were at risk of catastrophic hunger. Concern and Welthungerhilfe’s Global Hunger Index report highlighted how protracted and violent conflict is driving global increases in hunger and malnutrition, alongside climate change – and exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The speed of action and scale of funding, and the response from donor governments including the UK to this, has been very commendable. While this funding is critical to respond to the impacts of this conflict, and address the needs of people who are fleeing Ukraine, it is important that the conflict itself is brought to an end, that over the course of it the International Humanitarian Law is upheld, and that humanitarian access is not blocked.