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Thomas Gallatin / May 9, 2022

The Coming Food Shortage Crisis

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has only exacerbated an already troubled global supply train, and things will likely get worse before getting better.

Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) recently warned: “You can find different numbers on this, but roughly 25% of all the wheat exports in the world come from Ukraine and Russia. About 20% of all the corn exports in the world [and] 90% of the sunflower cooking oil comes from there, and a lot of fertilizer comes from there, right now from Ukraine, which is the bigger partner in that food distribution of the two countries.”

Blunt then observed: “And nothing is coming out of Ukraine. Nothing is coming out of the port at Odessa. Nothing is coming out of the port at Mariupol and hasn’t since the Russian invasion began.”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also noted: “There is really no true solution to the problem of global food security without bringing back the agriculture production of Ukraine and the food and fertilizer production of Russia and Belarus into world markets despite the war.”

Beyond the war in Ukraine, one of the world’s largest food producers, India, is currently suffering from a serious heat wave that will likely negatively impact crop yields this year, making the prospect of India being able to help make up for global wheat losses improbable. In fact, India is now considering restricting its wheat exports.

Worse than the global wheat shortage may be the fertilizer shortage. Russia and Belarus are major exporters of fertilizers, a source that has significantly diminished thanks to Vladimir Putin’s war. A lack of fertilizer equates to lower crop yields, which in turn leads to higher food prices.

Just one example comes from Carmel Township, Michigan. The local NBC affiliate there reports, “Fertilizer prices have tripled from where they were in 2021 and it’s forcing Mid-Michigan farmers to change how they grow their crops.” Repeat that many times across America’s Heartland and you have a real problem.

It’s true that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has been a major factor in the global food supply crisis, but it’s far from the only cause or even the primary one. Supply chain issues and COVID-related economic lockdowns had already inflicted significant damage to the global food supply.

Newt Gingrich recently surmised that we’re going to continue seeing higher prices “every place, from going to the gas station to going to the grocery store,” which he says “by September will be a bigger story than gasoline.” He added: “Food prices are going to go up all summer on a worldwide basis. They’re going to be a genuine crisis. … The longer they wait on inflation, the deeper the recession is going to be.”

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