Looming Global Food Crisis: EU Urged to Grow More Wheat in Light of Record High Food Prices

Written by | Tuesday, April 12th, 2022

EU decision-makers are increasingly worried about how to keep people fed in the months and years to come in the wake of the Russian invasion that has disrupted Ukrainian and Russian wheat and grain production. “Wheat production has been massively disrupted due to the blockage of the Black Sea,” EU Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski said during an EU agriculture ministers’ meeting on Thursday (7 April). The commissioner also called for increased support for Ukraine and other developing and emerging economies around the globe — especially in Africa. One of the issues discussed during the meeting was how to get EU production up to fill the gap of lost exports from the agricultural powerhouse Ukraine. “EU grain exports could be 30% higher [this year], and imports 42% lower,” Wojciechowski said. “2022 may be very good.”
But Ukrainian and Russian wheat exports make up 30% of the world’s supply, and exports through ports on the Black Sea have come to a standstill, causing wheat prices to jump 150%. Prices have soared for wheat, vegetable oil, corn, grains, threatening food shortages and hunger crises. World food prices hit an all-time high in March following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and subsequent international sanctions imposed on Russia, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Friday (8 April), spurring fears of a global hunger crisis, especially across the Middle East and Africa, where the knock-on effects are already playing out. Ukrainian ports have been blocked by a Russian blockade and there is concern about this year’s harvest as the war rages on during the sowing season. The United Nations agency said its Food Price Index, which tracks monthly changes in international prices for a basket of commodities, averaged 159.3 points last month, up 12.6% from February, the highest level since its inception in 1990.
Soaring food prices and disruption to supplies coming from Russia and Ukraine have threatened food shortages in countries in the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia where many people already were not getting enough to eat. Those nations rely on affordable supplies of wheat and other grains from the Black Sea region to feed millions of people who subsist on subsidized bread and bargain noodles, and they now face the possibility of further political instability. In the Sahel region of Central and West Africa, the disruptions from the war have further aggravated an already precarious food situation caused by Covid-19 pandemic, conflicts, poor weather and other structural problems. The World Food Program has appealed for $777m to meet the needs of 22 million people in the Sahel region and Nigeria over six months.
Last month, the European Commission adopted special support measures worth €500m to be sent to Ukrainian and European farmers directly affected by high prices or which have been shut off from global markets. The EU also promised Wednesday (6 April) €554m in 2022, targeted at increasing food security in the region. And the EU commissioner for agriculture has said that similar plans are needed for sub-Saharan Africa, although no details of the plan were given. To increase EU production even further, French Minister for Agriculture Julien Denormandie said the EU needed to have “production targets” to boost agricultural output and make sure everyone in Europe is fed. Others, however, highlighted that other regions are much more at risk, especially countries in Africa. “Africa deserves special care,” Wojciechowski said. Many African countries, including Benin, Egypt, Sudan, Madagascar, and Burundi, are almost entirely, or in some cases exclusively, dependent on Ukrainian grain.

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