Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is applying pressure on the global food system and threatening to spark a global food crisis.
Christopher Barrett, professor of applied economics and management at Cornell University, is an agricultural and development economist and an expert on global food systems.
“Russia's invasion of Ukraine is already affecting food markets globally and will continue to do so for some time. This drives up hunger and unnecessary human suffering far beyond the borders of Ukraine.
“Between the direct loss of supply due to reduced exports from Ukraine and Russia, the diversion of commodities into liquid fuels production in response to oil price rises, higher transport costs to deliver food to distant markets, and increased costs of inputs like diesel and fertilizers, food prices will certainly rise in the near term, and sharply in many countries.
“Will this be a big problem immediately? Probably not because there is a decent buffer in the global market. If growing conditions prove strong in 2022 in other major exporters (e.g., U.S., Canada, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, France) the temporary disruption of Ukrainian and Russian exports might not have a lasting and significant effect on wheat – or broader food – prices. But reduced flows from Ukraine and Russia make global markets far more vulnerable to droughts, floods or supply chain problems in any of the other major agricultural exporting countries.
“It’s a very bad time for the poor anywhere in the world to suddenly face food price shocks. Food price spikes aggravate the risk of political violence. It takes a perfect storm, but we had been edging closer to such conditions for some time, given extreme climate events and the pandemic. Russia's aggression just shoved the world significantly further towards unrest in other countries already struggling to cope with droughts, floods, COVID, and their own political turmoil.”