Russia’s barbarity is choking global grain supplies

There are growing fears that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could lead to a global food crisis. The international community must not only facilitate preparations for a crisis, but must also provide urgent assistance to developing countries.

Ukraine and Russia are two of the world’s leading grain-producing regions. Together, the two countries account for more than one-third of the world’s grain exports, including wheat and corn.

It is reported that developing countries, mainly in the Middle East and North Africa, import grain from Ukraine and Russia, and that Egypt, the world’s largest wheat importer, depends on the two countries for more than 80% of its wheat imports.

However, Russia has shut down ports on the Black Sea coast, a major export hub for Ukraine, hindering grain exports, according to reports.

In addition, agricultural work in Ukraine has reportedly become difficult due to labor shortages caused by the evacuation of citizens outside the country and farmers having to fight in the war. It is a certainty that Ukraine’s crop yields will be seriously diminished.

Grain exports from Russia, which is under economic sanctions, are also expected to fall.

It is unacceptable for excessive burdens to fall on poor people in developing countries who depend on imported grain. Russia should be aware that its atrocities will deal a blow to pro-Moscow countries in the Middle East.

Since last year, food prices have risen at an accelerated pace due to economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, logistical disruptions and rising fuel costs. The Ukraine crisis has added to growing worries over the situation.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that up to about 13 million people around the world could fall into malnutrition in the worst-case scenario due to diminished grain exports in the coming few months. Hunger could spread and political instability could increase in a number of countries.

It is important for the international community to step up pressure on Russia from a humanitarian perspective to allow grain shipments from Ukrainian ports. There is also an urgent need for developed countries to provide food aid to developing countries through U.N. organizations.

Agricultural ministers of the Group of Seven advanced nations agreed in March to take measures to avoid a food crisis. They said the G7 would urge other countries around the world to refrain from restricting food exports in favor of their own countries and to prevent speculators from driving prices up even more and making it difficult to procure food.

It is hoped that the G7 will strengthen monitoring of moves that could lead to a food crisis to ensure stable food supplies.

Japan imports about 90% of its wheat. Prices of a wide range of food items, including bread and noodles, have already risen. There is a possibility that the crisis in Ukraine could add fuel to rising food prices in the future.

The Japanese government and ruling parties have begun discussions on strengthening domestic food security over the medium to long term. They need to facilitate discussions on effective and concrete measures to promote international cooperation, strengthen domestic grain production and increase rice consumption, among other steps.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 7, 2022)