Ukraine war could lead to food shortages, migration problems – Polish president

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Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda said on Tuesday that the war in Ukraine had caused food shortages in North Africa and that the situation could lead to mass migration to Europe.

Duda told a panel in Davos that “if it turns out that there is hunger in North Africa, both Spain and the whole of southern Europe will have a huge migration problem. Today we should focus on Ukraine being able to export its grain.’’

Earlier, the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) said as the war continues to rage in Ukraine, impacts of rising food prices and shortages of staple crops are already being felt in the Near East and North Africa region.

It added that the impact was spreading to the world’s most vulnerable countries which include the Horn of Africa, with the poorest people at greatest risk, emphasising that the ongoing conflict will escalate global hunger and poverty.

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According to IFAD, a quarter of global wheat exports came from Russia and Ukraine with 40 per cent of wheat and corn from Ukraine going to the Middle East and Africa, which are already grappling with hunger issues.

It said Russia was also the world’s largest fertiliser producer saying even before the conflict, spikes in fertiliser prices in 2021 contributed to a rise in food prices by about 30 per cent.

IFAD’s analysis shows that price increases in staple foods, fuel, fertiliser, and other ripple effects of the conflict are having a dire impact on the poorest rural communities. For example:

In Somalia, where an estimated 3.8 million people are already severely food insecure, the costs of electricity and transportation have spiked due to fuel price increases.

This has a disproportionate impact on poor small-scale farmers and pastoralists who, in the face of erratic rainfall and an ongoing drought, rely on irrigation-fed agriculture powered by small diesel engines for their survival.

In Egypt, prices of wheat and sunflower oil have escalated due to Egypt’s reliance on Russia and Ukraine for 85 per cent of its wheat supply and 73 per cent of its sunflower oil.

In Lebanon, 22 per cent of families are food insecure and food shortages or further price hikes will exacerbate an already desperate situation.

The country imports up to 80 per cent of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine, but can only store about one month’s worth of the crop at a time due to the blast in Beirut’s port in 2020 that destroyed the country’s major grain silos.

Central Asian countries that rely on remittances sent home by migrant workers in Russia have been hit hard by the devaluation of the Russian ruble.

In Kyrgyzstan, for example, remittances make up more than 31 per cent of the GDP, the majority of which came from Russia.

Remittances are crucial for migrants’ families in rural areas to access food, education, and other necessities.

IFAD’s experts stress that small-scale producers are already reeling from the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic, droughts, cyclones, and other natural disasters.

Their incomes are expected to be affected by the rising cost of inputs, reduced food supplies, and disrupted markets.

This was also likely to have devastating and long-term impacts on their nutrition and food security, it said. (Reuters/NAN) 

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