The nervousness in the global food market is mounting as the blockades of Ukraine’s ports in the Black Sea have still not been lifted. A gigantic bulk of grain and wheat cannot therefore be transported. Food prices will rise further and African countries in particular will run into major problems as a result, experts tell NU.nl.
“Africa is the largest buyer, because wheat from Ukraine is the cheapest,” says Bart de Steenhuijsen Piters, researcher food systems at Wageningen University & Research. “But now that things go wrong there, the Africans are paying the price. Countries such as Ethiopia, Somalia and Tanzania in particular are dependent. They have to buy wheat from other countries and that is considerably more expensive. In the West we are not bothered by this, because it is purely is a matter of purchasing power. We have stocked enough grain here too.”
Louise van Schaik, head of EU & Global Affairs at the Clingendael Institute, states that unrest could arise in certain countries if the blockades are not lifted quickly and food prices continue to rise. “Especially in countries where the right to exist is already under pressure. But the higher fuel and food prices also lead to unrest in our society.”
The price for food remains unprecedented worldwide, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recently reported. Due to the war in Ukraine, the price of grain has risen sharply, among other things. Furthermore, fewer ingredients for fertilizer are available.
As a result of the Russian invasion, exports from Ukraine, one of the world’s largest producers of grain and vegetable oil, have fallen sharply. The blockade of key ports on the Black Sea has created additional turmoil in the supply chain and the problems are still unresolved.
Hoarding behavior leads to even higher prices
The biggest problems therefore arise on the African continent. According to De Steenhuijsen Piters, this has a number of causes. “Many countries need emergency aid, but it is very expensive at the moment because the price of wheat has doubled. In addition, part of the grain came from Ukraine, but it has to be bought elsewhere. Furthermore, there is drought and there are lots of conflicts.”
The researcher emphasizes that there is nervousness in the global food market. “But that is not only due to the conflict in Ukraine, but also to climate change. The uncertainty leads to hoarding, which causes prices to rise. Moreover, the world market for grain is also determined by four large companies.”
Van Schaik currently sees major problems in North and East Africa, Lebanon and Yemen. “Ukraine is a major supplier to the World Food Programme. The only solution is to end the war and clear the Ukrainian ports.”
‘Higher costs for farmers and horticulturists’
In the Netherlands, there are few physical shortages due to the blockades of the Ukrainian ports, LTO Nederland said. “The costs of raw materials, for example for animal feed, have risen sharply. We cannot take over Ukrainian wheat production, the climate is different here,” said a spokesman.
Farmers and horticulturists are also mainly affected by the negative consequences of rising fuel and energy prices. “For example, they have to deal with a higher fertilizer price, since the production of this costs a lot of expensive energy and many substances come from Ukraine and Russia. Horticulturalists pay more for energy costs because of their greenhouses. The question is whether these entrepreneurs will be reimbursed for the damage. “