Russia’s war on Ukraine is leading to an “apocalyptic” food shortage, Governor of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey told a committee of Parliament on Monday. Bailey said the main issue is that major global grain supplier Ukraine’s crops cannot be exported due to the war. The head of the United Nations World Food Program warned “millions of people around the world will die” if Ukraine’s Black Sea ports continue to be blockaded by Russia. Last week, Italian League party leader Matteo Salvini warned the looming food shortages due to the war could cause as many as 20 million people from Africa to migrate to Europe.
The Evening Standard reported on the “apocalyptic” warnings by the Bank of England and the U.N. (exceprt):
The Bank of England governor sounded an “apocalyptic” warning on Monday over looming food shortages caused by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Andrew Bailey told MPs of his “major worry” over food supplies, particularly to the developing world.
Appearing before the Commons Treasury Committee, he was asked about a range of subjects.
“I’m afraid the one I’m going to sound I guess apocalyptic about is food,” he said.
Mr Bailey added that after speaking with the Ukrainian finance minister at an International Monetary Fund meeting in Washington, future supplies of many staple foods were in doubt.
…David Beasley, head of the United Nations World Food Programme, pleaded with the Russian president to end the blockade of Black Sea ports.
“Millions of people around the world will die because these ports are being blocked,” he warned.
He emphasised that the historic port of Odesa, which has come under heavy Russian bombardment, and other ports needed to be operational within the next two months to avoid catastrophe for Ukraine’s economy which is heavily focused on agriculture, recently accounting for just over 40 per cent of its exports.
Ukraine is among the top five global exporters for several vital agricultural products, including corn, wheat and barley, according to the US government, as well as being the top exporter of both sunflower oil and meal.
Summit News reported on the warning of a famine driven wave of mass migration (excerpt):
Italian League party leader Matteo Salvini has warned that if the war in Ukraine does not end soon, chronic food shortages will cause an immigration wave that will lead to 20 million African migrants trying to enter Europe.
If Ukrainian grain supplies continue to be impacted, Salvini cautions, “Significant hunger is expected on the African continent, which will be a humanitarian, then a social, and finally an Italian problem.”
“Without peace there will be famine in the autumn and 20 million Africans will be ready to go,” he added.
Salvini predicts that a new migrant crisis will unfold if a ceasefire and subsequent peace isn’t achieved by the end of this month, noting that this was “essential for Ukraine, Russia and Italy as well.”
Last Saturday India announced a ban on wheat exports (excerpt via CNBC)
India banned wheat exports on Saturday, just days after saying it was targeting record shipments this year, as a scorching heatwave curtailed output and local prices hit an all-time high amid strong export demand.
The government said it would still allow exports for letters of credit that have already been issued and on the request from countries that are trying “to meet their food security needs.”
Global buyers were banking on the world’s second-biggest wheat producer for supplies after exports from the Black Sea region plunged following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February. Prior to the ban, India was targeting to ship out a record 10 million tonnes this year.
The Indian ban could drive up global prices to new peaks and hit poor consumers in Asia and Africa.
CBS News reported wheat prices are at record highs this week:
India’s recent decision to severely restrict wheat exports amid a devastating heatwave has driven up global prices for the basic commodity to record levels, and drawn warnings of looming food shortages around the globe. The price of wheat futures rose by 5.9% Monday to touch an all-time high of $12.68 per half bushel in Chicago, before recovering slightly on Tuesday.
In the European market, the price rose to 436.25 euros per ton — up 4.68% during the day’s trading.
The price of the food staple has risen more than 60% this year for several reasons, but largely due to disruptions caused by the war in Ukraine. Together, Russia and Ukraine — long known as the “bread basket of Europe” — have accounted for almost a third of the world’s total wheat exports in recent years. Fertilizer shortages and poor harvests have contributed to the rising prices.
The government in India, the world’s second-largest wheat producer after China, banned private exports of wheat on May 13, saying the move was necessary to manage national food security amid the threat presented by the severe heat hitting the country.
…Global food prices have risen about 30% over the past year, according to the United Nations. That, along with rising fuel and energy prices, is driving up inflation around the world. And that has raised fears of famines and social unrest in poorer countries, where millions of people are already not getting enough food.
Meanwhile China’s winter wheat crop is reportedly in trouble (Bloomberg excerpt):
Videos showing acres of wheat in China being destroyed or cut down before they mature are going viral on social media, throwing doubts on the quality of the crop in some areas at a time when global prices are soaring.
…China’s fields of winter wheat are set to be harvested in about 20 days, said the ministry, adding that the crop has faced many problems, including unusual floods last autumn. Record-breaking rain forecast in southern China in the coming days may pose another challenge for the country’s farm production.