This announcement alarmed all of Africa. Vladimir Putin’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine as well as his blockade of the country’s Black Sea ports had already taken millions of tonnes of grain out of global circulation, meaning the options for import-dependent countries were already rare.
Between them, Russia and Ukraine accounted for 30% of the world’s wheat, 23% of its barley and more than half of the sunflower oil traded. Ukraine alone supplied 15% of world maize and Russia 13% of world maize exports.
The suspension of exports from Ukraine and Russia has disrupted world markets and pushed food prices to record highs – the world price of wheat has jumped more than 50% since the start of the war, for example .
“Commodity markets are experiencing one of the biggest supply shocks in decades due to the war in Ukraine,” said Ayhan Kose, director of the World Bank’s Prospects Group, adding that food prices are expected to continue to increase until the end of 2024.
“It’s not a short-term thing”
As supplies are tight, countries are now rushing to ban exports and ensure food security for their own populations at the expense of international trade, worsening food inflation and ushering in a new era of stockpiling.
“Wheat production in Russia and Ukraine is going to continue to be disrupted by conflict for at least a year, it’s not a short-term thing,” said ODI senior researcher Dr Prachi Agarwal, a global affairs think tank in London.
“Stockpiling is going to continue and it’s likely to trigger a domino effect – we’ve seen it with Indonesia banning palm oil and then Malaysia following suit with chicken. It’s just motivating other countries to behave the same way.
India’s wheat storage can be understood from a national perspective. Food inflation in the world’s second most populous country has risen from less than 1% to over 8% since January, and is expected to continue climbing through 2022.