Russia and Ukraine are massive growers of grain, especially wheat. Russia produces about 10 percent of the planet’s wheat; Ukraine about 4 percent. Some of that production is consumed at home, but after their domestic use, Russia and Ukraine together provide about one-quarter of all the planet’s wheat exports. They are important exporters of corn and barley as well, and of cooking oils, especially sunflower oil. Now the Russian invasion has closed the ports through which Ukraine’s wheat moved to world markets. Insurance costs have jumped for all shipping in the Black Sea. Spring crops will probably go unplanted in Ukraine; Russian crops face sanctions and embargo. Russia and its ally Belarus also are—or were—important exporters of the fertilizer that other food-raising countries use to grow their own crops.
And several European countries are dependent on Russian gas - so if that becomes a weapon and supply is interupted, what are we going to cook with?
It’s tricky because it seems to me that , short of military intervention(which is most unlikely), sanctions against their gas/oil seem to only effective way of “attack”. We have to do something - but it is going to be very painful to do it.
But the surprising point of the article is that it may not be as dire as one might assume. Examples: some developing countries have greatly increased their food production in the past few decades (India is the world’s second largest wheat producer, Vietnam the second largest rice exporter); the many farmers in Africa may stand to be beneficiaries of higher prices.
Here’s the hopeful final take from the piece:
But a stress is not a crisis, and a crisis does not have to be a catastrophe. Good management can mitigate the stress, and begin to identify and capture opportunities. Dealing with the food-price increases that this conflict will bring will not be easy. But it can be done.