The war in Ukraine raises the specter of “famine”

Brussels: Russia’s war in Ukraine risks causing famine in parts of the world due to the two countries’ role as major agricultural exporters, EU ministers in Brussels warned on Monday.

The European bloc is working on a plan to increase the area of ​​EU land that can be devoted to agricultural production, ease restrictions on the import of animal feed and consider more direct aid to farmers in the EU. EU, agriculture ministers said at a meeting.

The conflict will ‘soon bring risks of famine’, affecting food security not just in Europe but across the world, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said as he traveled to a separate meeting of its European counterparts in Brussels.

“We need to address the issue of global food security because we know the scale of grain production, especially in Ukraine and Russia, and we see the consequences of war,” he said.

Ukraine and Russia are among the largest exporters of farm-grown food and fertilizers, including wheat, corn, rapeseed, sunflower seeds and sunflower oil.

Russia is also the first supplier of nitrogen fertilizers and the second for potash and phosphorus fertilizers.

With Ukraine’s access to its ports cut off by the Russian invasion and the shutdown of oilseed production, and Russia increasingly isolated from export markets and its entire economy under pressure from sanctions, these supplies are dwindling rapidly.

As a result, international grain and fertilizer prices could soar by 8 to 22 percent, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said last week.

Skyrocketing prices for oil – needed to ship supplies by sea – will only make the problem worse, with vulnerable countries bearing the brunt, the FAO said.

It predicts that the number of undernourished people could increase by 8 to 13 million people this year and next year, mainly in Asia-Pacific, sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa. .

Oxfam, the UK charity, noted that a staple like bread is unaffordable in many low-income countries because wheat is imported.

In a statement, Oxfam urged donor governments to “close the gap between what people can afford and higher prices and provide much-needed aid to people facing hunger”.

But Austrian Agriculture Minister Elisabeth Koestinger said that “in the next few months of the year and beyond, we have to assume that there will be a shortage of cereals, which are very important for the aid world food”.

While the European Union has enough to eat and is a net exporter of livestock products due to its generous agricultural subsidies, the war in Ukraine could nevertheless impact the cost of animal feed.

Finland’s Agriculture Minister Jari Leppa said the EU package should include enough flexibility for member states to “tailor support schemes to their own specific needs”.

His Spanish counterpart, Luis Planas Puchades, said that beyond the outline of the measures planned by the EU, “it is quite possible that the Commission will put on the table private storage measures in the pig sector”. .

He also said rising fuel costs needed to be looked at for fishing vessels, of which Spain has a large fleet.