How the war in Ukraine is causing a food crisis

Ukraine’s key role in the global food system


According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Ukraine produces about 10 percent of global wheat exports and 14 percent of corn exports, in addition to about half of all sunflower oil and a substantial amount of barley and fertilizers. Due to the Russian invasion, much of these supplies are now trapped in both countries, driving up food and livestock feed prices globally and threatening the normal workings of our food systems.

This GLF Live, originally aired live in March 2022, brought in leading food expert and GAIN Health executive director Lawrence Haddad to share his expectations and predictions for how the unfolding war will affect global food supplies, nutrition, and security in the short and long term.

Dr. Lawrence Haddad has served as executive director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) since October 2016. Prior, he was the founding co-chair and lead author of the Global Nutrition Report and director of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), the world’s leading development studies institute.


The foreseen impacts of the war in Ukraine on food and agriculture


Food prices were already on the rise before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Since 2020, we’ve witnessed global supply chain problems connected to COVID, the spike in the price of inputs like fertilizer connected to rising energy prices, among other effects. Dr. Haddad elaborates and shares his expectations on how war will affect the global food supply:


  • Short and long-term impacts are hard to predict. Aside from gas prices, up-to-date information such as food price fluctuations, and market and agriculture data are hard to track. FAO projections point to an increase in food prices and hunger globally.
  • The global food supply system is threatened. “When export countries (like Ukraine) stop exporting, everyone suffers including the export country – you got to keep the food moving internally and across borders,” says Dr. Haddad.
  • Countries in the Global South such as Pakistan rely up to 50% on exports of wheat from Ukraine. On the other hand, African countries rely heavily on fertilizer exports from the same country, putting a strain on their capacity for food production in the region.
  • Ukraine produces and exports a lot more than cereals. Dr. Haddad’s key message is on diversifying production. “We’re dependent geographically on four or five “bread baskets,” there should be 20. They might not be the most efficient way but it the most resilient.”
  • It’s time for resilience. Actions towards diversification, circularity, and zero food waste, can help build the resilience of food systems. Agroforestry has been adopted as a strategy to address resilient food systems.


Learn more about How agroecology can feed the world 🥕

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This audio is focused on value chains in support of the work of the Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration Impact Program (FOLUR), with funding from the Global Environment Facility.

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