Russia-Ukraine War and Food Crisis


  • The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres cautioned that the food crisis triggered by the Russia-Ukraine war is going out of control, hitting the poorest countries the most.

The global food market is under a siege

  • Russia-Ukraine is one of the world’s food baskets. Russia is the world’s largest wheat exporter while Ukraine is the sixth largest. 
  • Identified as the Black Sea region, the two countries produce 12 per cent of all food calories traded globally and control 29 per cent global wheat exports, 19 per cent maize exports as well as 78 per cent sunflower oil exports.

    Russia-Ukraine War and Food Crisis
    Source: Downtoearth
  • Russia is the world’s top exporter of nitrogen fertilisers, the second-leading supplier of potassium fertilisers and the third-largest exporter of phosphorus fertilisers. Together, they control a significant global supply chain of food and fertilisers. 

Cause of Concerns

  • Global hunger levels are at a new high. In just two years, the number of severely food-insecure people has doubled, from 135 million pre-pandemic to 276 million today.
  • Some 50 countries depend on Russia-Ukraine for their food supply, particularly for wheat, maize and sunflower oils. A majority of these are the poor and import-dependent countries in Asia, West Asia and Africa.
  • In 2021, 36 out of the 53 countries / territories with food crisis depended on Ukrainian and Russian exports for more than 10 per cent of their total wheat imports. This included 21 countries with major food crises.
  • In East Africa alone, where wheat and wheat products account for a third of the average cereal consumption, 90 per cent of all wheat imports come from the two countries, according to the World Food Programme.
  • More than half a million people are living in famine conditions, according to UN — an increase of more than 500 per cent since 2016.
  • If high fertiliser prices continue, today’s crisis in grain and cooking oil could affect many other foods, including rice, impacting billions of people in Asia and the Americas.

Way Forward

  • There should be no restrictions on exports, and surpluses must be made available to those most in need.
  • Countries should make concerted efforts to increase the supply of energy and fertiliser, help farmers increase plantings and crop yields, and remove policies that block exports and imports, divert food to biofuel, or encourage unnecessary storage.


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