Laura Burns with Willis Towers Watson compared today’s conditions to the uprisings during the Arab Spring in 2011. The World Bank recently said record-high food prices have “triggered a global crisis that will drive millions more into extreme poverty, magnifying hunger and malnutrition.”
Srdjan Todorovic, the head of terrorism and hostile environment solutions at Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty, pointed out the uniqueness of the current circumstances.
“We’ve seen the pattern over the last few years, but also if you… try to search back in history the current situation, political, economic that we’re witnessing at the moment globally, you probably can’t find a similar situation,” Todorovic said.
Many factors are leading to this global food crisis, including six months of war in Ukraine, supply chain problems, and worldwide inflation. In 2007 and 2008, high food costs led to riots and protests across 48 countries, and prices today are already higher than they were then.
While a host of issues is causing increased food prices, high fertilizer costs are also leading to problems. High fertilizer costs resulted in Peruvian and Greek farmers heading to cities to share their frustration. In addition, Sri Lankan protesters pushed out the current administration after they forcibly entered the presidential palace. Experts have said that was partly because of a chemical fertilizer ban that led to fewer crops harvested.
Officials at the United Nations are increasing their warnings about the lack of fertilizer, especially as regions of Africa are dealing with prices that have surged by 300% since the war in Ukraine.
World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development Juergen Voegele spoke about this in April, saying, “Russia and Belarus account for 20% of global fertilizer exports. And again fertilizer prices were already very high before the war because of high oil prices, and the price of urea for instance actually tripled last year already.”
There are at least 50 countries that rely on Russia and Ukraine for at least 30% of their grain, including several developing nations in North Africa and Asia, according to Marsh, per The Wall Street Journal. One example is Turkey, which imported 78% of its wheat from the two warring countries in 2020. Brazil is the primary market for Russian fertilizers.
Americans might be concerned about how this could affect the United States. However, most of the wealthier democratic countries around the globe can adjust to the increase in cost. The U.S. leads the world in food production and exports. America makes up 4% of the world population but generates a large percentage of food production, so the U.S. is likely insulated from a food crisis.
It seems there may be a lot of hardship in the short term, but over the long run, more strategies could be implemented to increase worldwide food production. Companies are also looking at how social unrest might affect their business. If there are uprisings and upheaval in some of these nations, it doesn’t only affect those areas. There is a ripple effect. With the interconnected global economy, disruptions in one country can have a massive impact on others.