The risk of a food crisis “is not related to the lack or insufficiency of food, but to food prices becoming unaffordable for a significant portion of the world’s population,” the UN points out. It is noted that global food prices were 13% higher in July compared to July last year. [AP]
THE war in Ukraine “added fuel to the fire” of food prices that had already taken off before the Russian invasion and are likely to increase further in total by another 8.5% until 2027. The UN made this pessimistic warning on Tuesday through the mouth of Arif Hussain, head of the United Nations World Food Program, who underlined that the risk food crisis “is not related to food shortages or shortages, but to food prices becoming unaffordable for a significant portion of the world’s population.” He warned, however, that the crisis could turn into a food shortage crisis if the problem of fertilizer deficiency is not addressed.
Speaking to the US news network CNBC, the UN official cited the international organization’s data, according to which global food prices were 13% higher in July compared to the same period last year. As he underlined, food prices continue their upward trend, as Ukraine is one of the most important countries in the world in grain, fertilizer and sunflower oil exports. Alongside food prices, however, fertilizer prices are also rising, fueling a new upward trend in food prices passed on to consumers. The reason is mainly the absence of Russian exports from the world market, as Russia accounts for about 14% of global fertilizer exports. The lack of fertilizers has, after all, reduced the production of agricultural products in many regions of the world.
In addition to the war in Ukraine, food production is being worsened by fertilizer shortages and climate change.
Equally alarming are the remarks of Marie Pangestou, director general of the World Bank’s development policy and cooperation department. Speaking to the same network, Mrs. Pangestou emphasized that the spike in food and fertilizer prices, combined with skyrocketing energy prices and a heart attack in the global supply chain, are undermining the World Bank’s ability to respond to growing needs to finance food production, as food production is expected to increase significantly over the next two years. He ended up again with the same warning, that growing uncertainty will probably keep food prices at very high levels beyond 2024. Extremely worrying are, after all, the calculations of the UN, which estimates that the number of people in a state of emergency from from a food point of view, i.e. on the verge of starvation, has increased significantly from 135 million people in 2019 to 345 million today.
Extreme weather conditions
In the meantime, an additional aggravating factor in the global food market is the extreme weather conditions, the heat and drought as well as the floods that hit China during the summer. China is the world’s top grain-producing power, but these extreme weather conditions have hit its agricultural output in recent months. Days ago the world’s second largest economy declared the country for the first time a state of emergency due to drought, as its central and southern provinces suffered for a week from unusually high temperatures, which in several cities exceeded 40 degrees Celsius. Extreme temperatures hampered production and in many cases caused problems for livestock farmers.
As pointed out by Bruno Carrasco, director general of the sustainable development and climate change department at the Asian Development Bank, “rice production is particularly vulnerable to changes in temperature.” He explained that 60% of food production in the wider Asia-Pacific region depends on irrigation through rain.