Confidential

The Russian Invasion Could Spread Hunger and Civil Unrest

Bread Market in the Middle East.

Summary

Russia’s invasion will not only harm Ukrainians. It could also harm millions of people that are dependent on grain imports from Russia and Ukraine. It is highly likely that the price of bread will increase, that civil unrest will follow and that millions of people will be on the brink of famine. 

KJ- 1 It is highly likely that the price of bread will increase in the Middle East and Africa in the next 6 months. 

  • In recent years, Ukraine and Russia have become a ‘major engine’ for feeding the world. In fact, agricultural products exported by the two countries amount to 12% of the calories the world trades. [source]
  • Ukraine alone accounts to more than 10% of global trade in wheat. Together with Russia this percentage increases to more than 30%. The two countries are also major exporters of corn and barley. Ukraine provides around 15% of the global supply of corn and together with Russia they account for more than 30% of the world’s supply of barley. [source]
  • Due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, food inflation has skyrocketed. The price of wheat has increased of more than 50% in two weeks and corn has reached its highest price in a decade. [source]
  • The war has jeopardised the shipments of grains from the Black sea. It is also likely that it will damage the spring planting season in Ukraine which should start in April. This is because growers are finding working in the fields extremely dangerous and many of them have joined the military in order to defend their country. [source]
  • In addition, the increase in price of grain is also due to protectionists measures of other grains exporters countries. Among others, Hungary has banned grain exports and Serbia will soon curb wheat shipments. [source]
  • The countries that are most likely to be affected by the increase of grains price are those that are highly dependent on Russian and Ukrainian imports. For instance, Egypt gets more than half of grains imports from Ukraine and Russia. Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen are also heavily reliant on Ukraine and Russia. [source]

KJ-2 It is likely that the increase in the price of bread will lead to civil unrest in the following 6 months. 

  • In many countries in Africa and the Middle East there is a long history of political and social unrest provoked by precarious economic conditions and especially prohibitive food prices. Therefore, the risks posed by the increase in the price of bread due to the ongoing conflict are clear. [source]
  • The conflict in Ukraine could lead to greater food insecurity which in turn could increase the chance of civil unrest and violence. [source]
  • For instance, when President Anwar Sadat tried to eliminate Egypt’s bread subsidy in 1977, riots followed. Moreover, in 2010 Russia banned exports due to a heat wave that devasted crops. This led to an increase in the price of bread for millions of people. This was one of the  factors that led to the uprisings during the Arab Spring. [source]

KJ-3 It is highly likely that hunger and malnutrition will increase in low income countries in the upcoming 6 months.

  • Grains keep the world fed. Wheat, corn and rice amount to more than 40% of all calories consumed worldwide. [source]
  • Food insecurity has doubled in the past two years, and the World Food Programme estimates that 45 million people are one step away from famine.  [source]
  • It is highly likely that the ongoing war will make things even worse, and that global hunger will reach unprecedented levels. A director of the World Food Programme stated that ‘the bullets and bombs in Ukraine could take global hunger crisis to levels beyond anything we have seen before’. [source]  

Author

Arianna Sparviero

Arianna Sparviero is a graduate student at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. She is currently enrolled in the first year of the master course in International Affairs.

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