This has prompted governments in Europe, Africa and the Middle East to scramble to find a new source of nutrition for millions of people. To make matters worse, many countries that could help fill these voids – including Hungary, Argentina and Turkey – have imposed restrictions on exports of key food items, arguing that they must maintain sufficient supplies for their own populations. China has also signaled it is likely to curb exports of rice, another major source of global nutrition, as food insecurity rises.
Beijing already has half of the world’s wheat supply in storage and its panic buying is driving up prices even further.
“It’s like pandemic hoarding, but it’s not toilet paper, it’s millions of bushels of grain that normally feed large parts of the world,” a Biden administration official said. “Countries are pretty much sitting on these supplies because they don’t know when it’s going to end.”
After the wheat market hit a record high earlier this week, US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and agriculture ministers from six other major economies warned on Friday that countries refusing to export food products would only cause further price spikes, saying it “could threaten food”. global security and nutrition, especially among the most vulnerable.
G-7 officials, who met virtually to discuss Ukraine, called on countries to keep their food and agricultural markets open and to “guard against any unjustified restrictions on their exports”.
Vilsack later said Ukrainian Agrarian Policy and Food Minister Roman Leshchenko addressed the group from a bunker and asked countries to provide fuel to help Ukrainian farmers harvest and plant. new crops this spring, as the country faces a rapidly worsening humanitarian crisis.
Leshchenko’s plea for help came just as the United Nations released a report On Friday, international food and feed prices are estimated to rise by 20% due to the conflict. US lawmakers and officials monitoring the situation are particularly concerned about shortages and price spikes that are triggering social unrest in African and Middle Eastern countries.
The United States, a major grain exporter, will likely be immune to the worst price spikes, said Scott Irwin, an agricultural economist at the University of Illinois.
“The concern is primarily about consumers in poorer countries being shut out of the market and the human cost of that,” Irwin said.
US officials have been tracking China’s moves in the wake of the conflict and fear that Beijing is positioning itself to use its mass reserves as a political cudgel against countries in Africa and the Middle East that will have increasingly desperate need food supplies as the conflict continues. “The bigger question is whether Beijing is doing this simply because it’s worried about ensuring enough food for its own population, or whether it has plans beyond that,” the official said. Biden.