Russian Invasion into Ukraine Threatens World Food Security

This is a piece written on the ground from Zhytomyr, Ukraine. The author, Vitalii Dankevych, is an Economics Professor at Polissia National University. For those of you looking to help those in need, please donate to World Central Kitchen, the U.N. World Food Programme, and the Global FoodBanking Network.

The war against Ukraine by Russia will have long-term ramifications, not only in Ukraine, but across the world. Russia’s war against Ukraine is also a war against the countries of the Middle East and North Africa, which are the main importers of food from Ukraine.

According to the State Customs Service of Ukraine, Ukraine exported agricultural food worth US$27.9 billion last year. The highest export volumes of different products were recorded in Ukraine—20,071 thousand tons of wheat, 459,000 tons of poultry, 76,000 tons of frozen berries and other fruits, and 38,000 tons of pasta.

In 2021, Asia continued to strengthen its position as a major importer of domestic agricultural products, once again purchasing a record number of Ukrainian agricultural products. Last year, the value of domestic exports to the countries of this region increased to US$13.7 billion. Supplies to Africa in 2021 also increased from US$2.9 billion in 2020 to US$3.7 billion, according to the State Customs Service of Ukraine.

And research by the Kyiv School of Economics shows that Egypt, Yemen, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, and Iraq are some of the countries most dependent on Ukrainian food imports.

Russia’s war against Ukraine will undoubtedly lead to deficit in production and a decline exports is inevitable. The war is threatening farmers being able to plant crops, which is expected to begin in the third week of March.

Wheat, barley, oats, peas, canola, and some vegetables are typically planted in the next few weeks to avoid losing moisture in soils And typically farmers fertilize winter cereals and industrial crops, in particular wheat, rye and rape during this time. When it comes to high-energy crops like maize for grain, sunflower and soybeans, which are sown in April, it is necessary to store a sufficient amount of seeds and material resources.

At the same time, there are already significant concerns about sufficient fuel, fertilizers, plant protection products, and seeds. Not to mention the physical ability to start field work in a number of regions of Ukraine.

The critical situation may be with the sowing of corn for grain, soybeans and sunflowers because Ukraine is one of the leaders in world exports.

In addition, the availability of fuel is in jeopardy for agricultural machinery. According to the A-95 Consulting Group, in 2021 2.05 million tons of diesel fuel were imported from Russia. Although this is less than in 2020 (2.61 million tons) and the share of Russian resources in total imports of diesel fuel fell from 42 percent in 2020 to 30 percent in 2021, but it is still quite high. It is clear that in the conditions of war there can be no question of buying fuel from the aggressor country. It is also impossible to supply fuel from neighboring Belarus because significant number of troops invaded the territory of Ukraine from Belarus, as well as a high number of missile strikes were fired from there. And Belarus was largest supplier of diesel fuel to Ukraine in 2021—Ukraine faces an acute and urgent need to find new alternative fuel suppliers.

In addition, port control is critical for Ukraine. A record amount of diesel fuel—1.2 million tons, which is one and a half times more than in 2020, entered Ukraine in 2021 by sea. The largest volume—405,5 thousand tons—arrived to the port of Nikolaev. 335,000 tons, 220,000 tons, and 175,000 tons were received by the ports South, Odesa, and Kherson, respectively. This means that Russian and Belarusian imports can be covered through importing by sea.

Lithuania may be a promising alternative supplier of fuel to meet the needs of farmers. In 2021 shipments from Lithuania increased by 11 percent to 691 thousand tons.

Finally, from my perspective the whole country is united. Farmers and agricultural producers are actively helping the army and the population. Many agricultural workers are fighting side by side with the military, defending their homeland. Farmers are actively helping to seize enemy equipment and use it to protect their homeland.

We are an independent and strong nation. However, the whole world must be aware of the dangers of Russia’s aggression. The war in Ukraine threatens the food and humanitarian security of many countries.

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Photo courtesy of Polina Rytova, Unsplash

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