rosman1_GENYA SAVILOVAFP via Getty Images_putin wheat crisis GENYA SAVILOV/AFP via Getty Images

Putin’s Global Food Crisis

The Russian president’s weaponization of food security is not solely responsible for a crisis that was already grave before the Ukraine war started. The international community must tackle not only Russia’s Black Sea blockade but also the structural issues that left the world vulnerable to food-supply shocks in the first place.

LONDON – Coming on the heels of the worsening climate crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, and soaring energy prices, war in Europe was the last thing a fragile global food system needed. With up to 50 million people worldwide now on the brink of starvation, it is not just Ukrainians who are paying the price for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of their country.

Russia’s Black Sea blockade has trapped roughly 20 million tons of grain in Ukrainian ports – equivalent to the annual consumption of all least-developed countries. But even if that supply is released, it will not be enough, because Putin’s invasion is just the latest blow to an already-broken global food system. The world must now prepare for a food crisis that will last years, not months.

Currently the crisis is one of pricing, with the index maintained by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations soaring to a record high. But by this time next year, there may well be a food-availability crisis. Our new report on the Ukraine war’s global fallout looks at how disrupted planting seasons will undermine Ukraine’s agricultural exports, while a global fertilizer crunch – exacerbated by the conflict – will compromise many countries’ ability to feed themselves.