Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could trigger a surge in world hunger: FAO

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The number of undernourished people in the world could increase by 13 million next year

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The United Nations warns that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could push the global number of undernourished people up to 13 million next year.

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The war has destabilized a key growth region for global grain, oilseed and fertilizer production, where Ukraine and Russia account for a third of global grain exports. As the invasion enters its third week, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has expressed concern that Ukrainian farmers will not be able to sow this spring or harvest a strong winter wheat harvest expected in June. Even if they could, the Black Sea port closures have stifled the country’s main global export gateway.

FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu said production disruptions are “likely” in the region. And any sharp drop in exports will threaten to “severely worsen global food insecurity” at a time when grain, oilseed, fuel and fertilizer prices are already rising. Global wheat and barley prices have already jumped 31% in 2021, he said in a statement on Friday, urging grain-producing countries to resist the urge to protect domestic supplies by banning exports.

“Before adopting measures to secure the food supply, governments must consider their potential effects on international markets,” he said.

The loss of exports from Ukraine and Russia would seriously reduce global grain supplies, Qu said.

The system is already at the limit of what it can tolerate

Evan Fraser

“It remains unclear whether other exporters would be able to fill this void,” he said. “Wheat stocks are already low in Canada, and exports from the United States, Argentina and other countries will likely be limited as the government attempts to secure domestic supplies.

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The world’s major wheat importers – including Egypt, Turkey and Iran – would be forced to look elsewhere to replace Russian and Ukrainian products, driving up prices and making it even more difficult for developing countries to secure shipments. development. Some of the countries most dependent on Ukrainian and Russian grains are already facing food insecurity, including Yemen and Libya, according to the FAO.

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“The system is already at the limit of what it can tolerate,” said Evan Fraser, director of the Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph. Canada’s grain stores would normally have been able to compensate for such an emergency in Ukraine, or vice versa, but last year’s extreme drought on the Prairies means Canadians are running out of supplies. “The normal system buffers aren’t there,” he said in an interview earlier this week. “We don’t have those options right now. I just think it might be bad.

FAO simulations suggest that a prolonged interruption to the region’s food production would increase the number of undernourished people by 8 to 13 million in 2022/23, “with the most pronounced increases taking place in Asia-Pacific, followed by by sub-Saharan Africa, and the Near East and North Africa,” according to a detailed report released Friday by the FAO.

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