Global food prices were already rising significantly before the invasion of Ukraine. The invasion, however, has set off another round of price increases for basic foodstuffs including grains (notably wheat) and cooking oils such as sunflower oil. As the invasion continues into the spring planting season, pushing many Ukrainian farmers off their farms, the effects could easily become dire: the UN has warned of the distinct consequences of a severe food crisis later this year in many countries around the world, notably in the Middle East and Africa, with millions of people at risk of food insecurity because of higher prices and lack of supply.
The Conference Board first addressed this broad subject of food security on March 15 with a paper asking "What If Russia/Ukraine Grain Trade Halts?" That paper stated that Russia and Ukraine together "supply 16 percent of global exports of grains" and examined current global "stockpiles that can be tapped for exports, and the capacity of internal infrastructure and labor to facilitate ramped up trade. India, the US, and the EU appear uniquely positioned to step in to feed the world." However, the paper also noted that "[t]he human suffering of the war in Ukraine could potentially extend out exponentially to the rest of the globe by exacerbating global food insecurity. The armed conflict . . . could seriously disrupt production and exports of grain to very vulnerable countries."
This Policy Brief supplements that paper as the war has continued and also focuses on several specific issues regarding the serious prospect of global food insecurity, with particularly strong impacts in regions including the Middle East and Africa.