Russia’s war in the “granary” of the world threatens food

BARCELONARussian tanks and missiles under siege of Ukraine also threaten the food and livelihoods of people in Europe, Africa and Asia who are hoping for extensive fertile land in the Black Sea region – known as the “breadbasket of the world”.

Ukrainian farmers have been forced to neglect their fields as millions of people flee, fight or try to stay alive. Ports sending wheat and other foodstuffs around the world for bread, noodles and animal feed are being closed. And there are fears that Russia, another agricultural power, could reduce grain exports Western sanctions.

They haven’t been there yet global failures wheat supplies prices rose 55% a week before the invasion amid concerns about what might happen next. If the war drags on, countries counting on affordable wheat exports from Ukraine could face deficits starting in July, International Grains Council director Arnaud Petty told the Associated Press.

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This can create food security and throw more people into poverty in places like Egypt and Lebanon, where the diet is dominated by government-subsidized bread. In Europe, officials are preparing for a potential shortage of products from Ukraine and rising prices for animal feed, which could lead to higher prices for meat and dairy products if farmers are forced to shift costs to customers.

Russia and Ukraine share almost a third of the world’s wheat and barley exports. Ukraine is also a major supplier of corn and a world leader in the production of sunflower oil used in the food industry. The war could have cut food supplies just then prices are at the highest level since 2011.

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Prolonged conflict will have a big impact about 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) in Egypt, the world’s largest importer of wheat. Millions are hoping for subsidized bread from Ukrainian grain to survive, about a third of people live in poverty.

“Wars mean shortages and shortages mean rising prices,” said Ahmed Salah, a 47-year-old father of seven in Cairo. “Any hike will be catastrophic not only for me but for most people.”

Anna Nagurny, a professor of supply chain, logistics and economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, said: “Wheat, corn, oil, barley, flour are extremely important for food security … especially in the poorest parts of the globe.”

When Ukrainian men were called to a fight, she said: “Who will harvest? Who will be in charge of transportation? ”

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The state customer of Egypt’s wheat, which usually buys a lot in Russia and Ukraine, was forced to cancel two orders in less than a week: one due to overpricing, the other due to lack of companies offering to sell their supplies. Sharp jumps in the price of wheat worldwide could seriously affect Egypt’s ability to keep bread prices at the current subsidized level.

“Bread in Egypt is heavily subsidized, and governments that have come from each other have found that cutting these subsidies is a straw to keep from the camel’s back at all costs,” said Miret Mabruk, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute. . recent analysis.

War-ravaged Syria recently announced it would cut costs and rations. In neighboring Lebanon, where a powerful explosion in the port of Beirut in 2020 destroyed the country’s main grain bunkers, authorities are trying to compensate for the predictions wheat deficiency, and Ukraine provides 60% of its supplies. They are in talks with the US, India and Canada to find other sources for a country that is already in financial crisis.

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Even before the war threatened to affect wheat supplies to sub-Saharan Africa, people in Kenya demanded #lowest food prices on social media like inflation undermined their solvency. Now they are preparing for the worst.

African countries imported $ 4 billion worth of agricultural products from Russia in 2020, about 90 percent of which was wheat, said Vandile Sihloba, chief economist at South Africa’s Chamber of Agriculture.

In Nigeria, flour mums believe that a shortage of wheat supplies from Russia will affect the price of foods such as bread, a common food in Africa’s most populous country.

“We all need to look elsewhere,” in the future, said Top Ogun of Honeywell Flour Mills Plc, one of Nigeria’s largest flour mills. “We may not get what we need, and there will probably be a price increase.”

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Nigeria has made every effort to reduce dependence on Russian grain, and farmers are moving to sow more wheat fields to try to meet 70% of the country’s demand in five years, said Gamba Sale, national secretary of the Nigeria Wheat Farmers Association.

“We have land, we have people, we have money, we have everything we might need in Nigeria,” to grow wheat, ”he said. “All we need now is time.”

The disruption can be felt even in Indonesia, where wheat is used to make instant noodles, bread, fried foods and snacks.

Ukraine was the second largest supplier of wheat to Indonesia last year, providing 26% of the wheat consumed. Rising noodle prices, in turn, will hurt low-income people, said Kasan Mukhri, who heads the research department of the trade ministry.

Ukraine and Russia also share 75% of world exports of sunflower oil, which is 10% of all vegetable oils, according to IHS Markit.

Raad Hebsey, a wholesaler in Baghdad, said he and other Iraqis are preparing to pay more for oil.

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“Once the stored items are sold, we will see an increase in prices for these goods,” he said. prices “.

Farmers in the United States, the world’s leading corn exporters and a major supplier of wheat, are watching to see if wheat exports to the U.S. grow. In the European Union, farmers are concerned about rising costs for animal feed.

Ukraine supplies the EU with just under 60% of its corn and almost half of the key grain component needed to feed livestock. Russia, which the EU provides 40% of its natural gas needsis also a major supplier of fertilizers, wheat and other staple products.

Spain is short of both sunflower oil, which is normalized by supermarkets, and grain for the most important branch of breeding. Imported grain is fed to about 55 million pigs.

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Haume Bernice, a 58-year-old breeder with 1,200 pigs on his farm in northeastern Spain, fears the war will further exacerbate the pain his business is facing. climate change and drought.

Since October, Spanish pork products have been losing off high costs, Bernice said. These costs are due to the fact that China accumulates feed for its pigs when selected from the devastating outbreak of African swine fever.

During the first two days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the price of grain for feed on the Spanish open market jumped by 10%.

“We are facing a moment of very high costs and we don’t know what lies ahead,” Bernice said. “This is another cost of waging war in the 21st century.”

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Batravi reported from Dubai, Magdi from Cairo and Assad from Lagos, Nigeria. AP Paul Wiseman reporters in Washington; Qasim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad; Kara Anna in Nairobi, Kenya; Ninik Carmini in Jakarta, Indonesia; and Roxana Hegemann of Bel Plain, Kansas, contributed.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of tensions between Russia and Ukraine on /hub/russia-ukraine.

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