How Ukraine war could leave the rest of the world hungry

Right now in Ukraine, the farmers that haven’t been run off their land or killed are well into planting season.

But this year the process is fraught with peril. An undetonated shell, bomb or landmine under the surface would be likely to explode if run over with a tractor. The supplies of fuel, fertiliser and seed are uncertain, and getting their crop to ports and out of the country is precarious.

This is a big problem not just for Ukrainian farmers but the world in general. Ukraine has long been considered the breadbasket of Europe, and exports more wheat than all but a few countries.

With supplies from major wheat exporter Ukraine uncertain, countries like Egypt are desperately trying to increase their local supply. (AP)

As a result, prices around the world are going to go up, and the countries that relied on Ukraine’s grain may find themselves going hungry.

“Thirty-five percent of people rely on wheat as their staple,” Professor of Crop Science at the University of Queensland Andrew Borrell told

“Russia and Ukraine provide about 90 percent of Somalian wheat. 80 percent of wheat to the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

“That’s going to drop right off, so they’re going to be affected most.”

Countries in the Middle East and Africa are reliant on Ukraine and Russia to supply their staple food.

And shelling out more money for wheat from elsewhere is not a viable option for some of the world’s poorest countries.

Ukraine is the world's fifth biggest exporter of wheat.
Ukraine is the world’s fifth biggest exporter of wheat. (AP)

“The price of wheat’s about 80 percent higher than it was about a year ago,” Borrell said.

“Together Russia and Ukraine account for almost 30 percent of wheat.”

The impact of the war comes right after a pandemic that has also had a serious impact on food supply, the University of Sydney’s Centre for Advanced Food Engineering’s Diana Bogueva told

“I think that many countries around the world were struggling to get access to food supply following the downturn from the pandemic,” she said.

“Around 700 million people went hungry in 2020.

“This number is expected to go higher in 2022.”

Ukraine has long been regarded as the breadbasket of Europe.
Ukraine has long been regarded as the breadbasket of Europe. (AP)

Russia and Ukraine are also major providers of maize, sunflower oil and vegetable oils, also staple foods in many countries.

“This war will have multiple implications for global markets,” Bogueva said.

“What is available on the market will be distributed to countries that are able to pay more.”

And growing food domestically in these countries is being made more difficult by another ramification of the war.

Russia is a major exporter of fertilisers across the world.

It is the largest exporter of phosphorus fertiliser and the second largest exporter of potassium.

Somalia gets much of its wheat from Ukraine.
Somalia gets much of its wheat from Ukraine. (AP)

And the higher price of oil will make both farming and freight more expensive.

“This will disrupt the whole food supply,” Bogueva said.

Grain that has already been harvested is in many cases languishing in ports in Ukraine being bombed by Russian aircraft.

Russia is by far the largest exporter of wheat in the world, followed by Canada, the US, France, then Ukraine.

Defenders of Ukrainian stronghold continue to repel attacks

Australia is a distant sixth, based on 2020 figures.

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