The War on Grain

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India and other nations are banning exports of wheat as the price of the vital commodity skyrockets due to supply chain shocks from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“As the war continues, there is a growing likelihood that food shortages, particularly of grains and vegetable oils, will become acute, leading more countries to turn to restrictions on trade,” the International Food Policy Research Institute concluded in a report cited by CNBC.

The Institute noted that supply chains had already been disrupted due to the Covid-19 pandemic and terrible droughts. “Russia’s invasion came at a bad time for global food markets.”

Actually, wheat is another front of the war, Russia’s war on grain, wrote the Washington Post’s editorial board recently: “(Russian President Vladimir) Putin is ruthlessly employing hunger and food insecurity as a war tactic, a perverse and brutal attempt to crush Ukraine’s spirit and blackmail the rest of the world.”

Ironically, in the past year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose country produces the second-most wheat in the world after China, had permitted India to export a record seven million metric tons of grain, taking advantage of high prices, CNN explained. Now he’s capping sugar exports, too, amid fears of shortages, wrote Quartz India.

Modi’s turnabout came as the leaders of the G7 group of industrialized nations issued a dire warning about a looming global hunger crisis that made it necessary to help Ukraine to export grain through its Black Sea ports, now under Russian blockade, the Financial Times reported. Other Western leaders like the prime minister of Slovakia, Eduard Heger, said on Euronews that grain needed to flow or famine would result.

The diplomatic war over the problem is heating up, the Washington Post wrote.

As the Atlantic Council called the Russian blockade a “war on global food security,” US officials warned of Russians selling stolen Ukrainian grain as prices spiked, ABC News reported. Ukraine is now working on shipping grain out by train, a slower and more cumbersome process, Radio Free Europe wrote. Turkey and Russia met to hammer out a deal to allow Ukraine to export grain, but Bloomberg reported that Ukrainian leaders were suspicious. Regardless, no deal was agreed to, the Wall Street Journal noted.

Meanwhile, 40 percent of the World Food Program’s wheat supplies come from Ukraine.

The first impoverished and unstable country to face a serious food crisis due to the European conflict could be Somalia, where rainy seasons have failed to deliver enough water for agriculture for four consecutive years. The United Nations has raised only a third of the $250 million they need to satisfy the war-torn country’s food demand. Almost 400,000 Somali children now face malnutrition. More than 213,000 Somalis are at risk of starvation.

“If the world does not widen its gaze from the war in Ukraine and act immediately, an explosion of child death is about to happen in the Horn of Africa,” UNICEF Deputy Regional Director Rania Dagash told Reuters.

In the most developed countries, shortages in baby formula and other essentials are versions of these crises, noted the Nation.

Humanity appears poised to let a tyrant’s anger kill more people than anyone imagined in late February.

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