Falling Food Prices, Rising Global Hunger
Russia’s war in Ukraine has had disastrous effects on many sectors of the global economy, not the least of which being the food industry. The combination of the war, supply chain disruptions, and climate change has resulted in rising food prices across much of the world, and underdeveloped countries are feeling the changes most severely. In fact, we are now facing what experts call the “most acute global food crisis in decades”, as the number of people in hunger emergencies—one step down from famine—has increased from 135 million in 53 countries pre-pandemic to 345 million in 82 countries today.
Prices may have finally begun to fall in the last two months, but the FAO Food Price Index remains 13.1% higher than it was last year. Experts warn that just because prices are beginning to drop does not mean that the crisis is on its way out, as the underlying causes are still unaddressed. Contributing to the high prices is the rise in cost of fertilizer, which Russia is a major exporter of.
The U.N. estimates that global food prices could jump another 8.5% by 2027, which would have catastrophic effects on much of the Global South. In 2007-08 and 2010-11, food price spikes resulted in riots breaking out across the world. Additionally, the World Bank predicts that for every 1% increase in food prices, another 10 million people are forced into extreme poverty and food insecurity, a situation which disproportionately affects women.
The crisis looks to be intensifying, unless an unexpected halt to the war in Ukraine is around the corner. There are 36 countries who rely on Russia and Ukraine for more than half of their wheat imports, and many fear that the shortages will only worsen next year. Part of the reason the prices have reduced slightly in recent months is a tentative agreement that was made between Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, and the United Nations which allows for Ukraine’s Black Sea ports to be opened up for food exports, but this is a shaky promise. Ukraine’s exports are already down 40% from 2021, and there are concerns that next year’s crop will be impacted if farmers cannot rake in enough profit this year.