The impact of the Ukraine war on food supplies: 'It could have been so much worse' (NPR)

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NPR spoke with Joseph Glauber, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, on the anniversary of the Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to discuss how the war has affected global food security during the past year, where things stand today and why the worst predictions have not come to pass.

Glauber noted that before the war, Russia and Ukraine’s combined wheat production accounted for about a third of global need. The two nations are also important sources of fertilizer, cooking oil and feed grains such as corn. And they are particularly important suppliers to numerous countries in the Middle East and Africa.

So when Russia invaded Ukraine, “all of a sudden the concern was that you had both [countries] potentially being knocked out of the global market,” said Glauber. And because most planting of, for instance, wheat, is done in the fall, farmers in countries outside of Russia and Ukraine “didn’t really have a chance to adjust and plant more. The crop had already been planted.”

Adding to the challenge was the fact that global food prices were already at record highs due to a spate of previous droughts and poor harvests in other countries that are also important suppliers – including the United States. With food stocks so tight, there wasn’t going to be a cushion to deal with a sudden drop in supply from Russia and Ukraine.

Yet, says Glauber, “It could have been so much worse.”

Read more of Joseph Glauber’s comments to NPR on the Black Sea Grain Initiative, food prices, last year’s harvest, and predictions for 2023.

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