US agricultural officials are warning that the war and extreme weather have threatened global food supplies as soaring food prices have led to shortages and protests around the world.
“We actually have two crises,” Eric Fierwald, CEO of pesticide and crop seed maker Syngenta, told the Wall Street Journal. “Food Security Crises and Climate Crises”.
Extreme weather is on the rise, Fierwald said, including heat waves, droughts and floods that have affected farmers in America, Europe, Australia and India. On top of that, global grain and fertilizer markets have been disrupted by the war in Ukraine, which normally exports about one-third of the world’s wheat supply. The USDA forecasts that figure will be halved this year.
Rising food prices are causing unrest as disruptions to Ukraine’s harvest supply exacerbate existing strains on global supplies of grains and other commodities. The head of the UN World Food Program has warned that outright food shortages are possible in 2023 if Russia continues to block grain exports from Ukraine.
Even among the richest countries in the world, high food prices are hurting. US food prices rose nearly 12% in May in the last 12 months, the biggest annual increase since April 1979, according to the Department of Labor. Prices rose 7.4% at restaurants and other out-of-home dining outlets, also showing growth in more than four decades.
“Some ingredients just won’t be enough,” said Florian Schattenmann, CTO of Cargill, adding that the war in Ukraine has put pressure on things like sunflower oil, forcing companies to scramble for substitutes.
On Monday, US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack spoke at a magazine event where he said that Russia was destroying grain production in Ukraine. “They are preventing farmers from planting and growing their crops,” he said, calling for the reopening of Ukrainian Black Sea ports to move grain out of the country and alleviate a food supply crisis – partly because trade needs to resume so full granaries can make room for storage of this year’s harvest. Vilsack added that the US needs to find ways to increase its own crop production.
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