Russia’s invasion of Ukraine dramatically worsened the outlook for already inflated global food prices. The halt in Ukrainian exports following the outbreak of the conflict pushed the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) food price index, which tracks international prices of the most globally traded food commodities, to its highest point in March since records began in 1990.
By Dea Bankova, Prasanta Kumar Dutta and Michael Ovaska for Reuters
FOOD PRICE INDEX+58.5%
Price increase above 2014-16 average as of Apr. 2022.
Change in the Consumer Price Index for food
Food supplies under strain
The war has disrupted global agricultural exports from Russia and Ukraine, two grain exporting powerhouses that accounted for 24% of global wheat exports by trade value, 57% of sunflower seed oil exports and 14% of corn from 2016 to 2020, according to data from UN Comtrade.
Top importers of Russian and Ukrainian grains
Global supply chain problems look set to worsen as China’s COVID-19 lockdowns, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and other strains cause even longer delays at ports and drive up shipping costs.
With food prices rocketing, a growing list of key producing countries are limiting exports to stabilise prices and protect local markets.
According to data from David Laborde Debucquet and Abdullah Mamun at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), restrictions on food and food-related commodities in 2022 could impact as much as 17% of globally traded calories.
Top restricted products as a percentage of worldwide imports
Chart of the top restricted products, including the products, percentage of total world imports and country name.
Sky-high fertiliser prices have farmers worldwide reducing planned harvests and the amount of land they’re planting.
The fertiliser crisis is in some respects more worrying because it could inhibit food production in the rest of the world that could help take up the slack from stalled Ukrainian and Russian grain deliveries, according to Maximo Torero, chief economist for the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
“If we don’t resolve the problem of fertiliser, and trade of fertilisers doesn’t continue, then we’ll have a very serious problem of [food] supply next year,” Torero told Reuters.
Western sanctions on Russia, a major exporter of potash, ammonia, urea and other soil nutrients, have disrupted shipments of those natural resources around the globe. China last year imposed fertiliser export curbs to protect its own farmers as global prices soared due to strong demand and high energy prices.
Russia and China exported 28% of the world’s fertilisers in terms of trade value from 2016 to 2020 according to a Reuters analysis of UN Comtrade data.
Top exporters of fertilisers
Top importers of Russian and Chinese fertilisers
Those most at risk
Those living in poverty and in countries dependent on food imports are most at risk of suffering from the food inflation crisis.
According to the WFP, 811 million people are chronically hungry. 276 million are living on the brink of starvation and nearly 49 million live in 43 countries on the brink of famine.
Many may reduce meals and the amount of calories they consume, and especially those who are forced to spend a greater portion of their income on food are at risk of being pushed further into poverty to stave off hunger.
Food as a share of household expenditures
Millions of people forecast to experience food crisis in 2022
Bar chart of countries 8 countries with severe malnutrition predicted for 2022, with Democratic Republic of Congo at the top with 25.9 million people.
Jon McClure, Simon Webb, and Grant McCool