Asian and African nations are facing severe food shortages as the Ukraine conflict continues to unfold.
Ukraine and Russia combined produce roughly 12% of the world’s calories, as well as 30% of the world’s traded wheat. The United Nations warned as early as March that Ukraine’s ability to “harvest crops, plant new ones or sustain livestock production” was in jeopardy due to the Russian invasion.
Indeed, African nations like Kenya and Ethiopia — which are already struggling with drought conditions and related livestock deaths — are facing compounded food shortages amid a global rise in food prices.
“The cost of grain, fuel and fertilizer has skyrocketed worldwide, worsening hunger crises,” ABC News reported, adding that “many countries in East Africa rely on Russia and Ukraine for a significant percentage of these agricultural commodities.” The United Nations’ World Food Programme’s local food basket has also soared in price by 23% over the past year.
Beyond food, Russia alone produces 11% of the world’s oil supply. Much of the world has seen a surge in gas prices since the beginning of the Ukraine invasion.
The high fuel costs are impacting agriculture in the South Asian nation of Sri Lanka, in which farmers are already struggling due to a ban on chemical fertilizers.
“It’s planting time here, coinciding with the arrival of seasonal rains that will fill the paddies, but… Only a handful of the plots have been planted with the pale green seedlings, the rest carry the wispy remnants of last season’s crop gone to seed, or are empty, save for a soupy brown slop,” Sky News reported. “As a result they can’t afford, or sometimes even find, the diesel or kerosene required for tractors and rotavators to turn the soil.”
Farmer Ravindra Wickramrathana told the outlet that the ban is causing farmers to only harvest 25% of their former yield. “I can’t even think about the future, the price of everything is increasing, labour costs have gone up,” he said. “If we can’t cover our costs how can we continue farming? We don’t know how to do anything else.”
In the United States, lawmakers are attempting to pass $40 billion in funds for the Ukrainian military to end the Russian invasion. President Joe Biden explained that his former relief package had been exhausted.
“This aid has been critical to Ukraine’s success on the battlefield. We cannot allow our shipments of assistance to stop while we await further Congressional action,” Biden said. “I am pleased that, in my conversations with Congressional leaders, there appears to be strong support for the proposal I submitted, and Congress is likely to pass it in substantially the form I proposed. I urge them to do so, and again, I urge them to do so quickly.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) agreed that “the most important thing going on in the world right now is the war in Ukraine.”
“I think we’re on a path to getting that done, discussions are underway between the House and Senate appropriators on the crafting of the package,” he added in reference to the aid package. “It needs to be clean of extraneous matters, directly related to helping Ukrainians win the war.”