Russia and Ukraine are among the world’s top wheat exporters. With one side ravaged by war and the other bound by sanctions, there are fears that the conflict will have a major impact on the global food supply.
“People will fight for whatever remains,” Dalhousie University food security expert Sylvain Charlebois told CTV News. “In some parts of the world you will probably see some civil unrest.”
Shortages are expected across the Middle East, North Africa and Asia in import-dependent countries. For example, the Lebanese Minister of Economy says that they have enough wheat for a month and a half.
To address the issue, the G7 agriculture ministers met today in Germany, where they were updated by Ukrainian officials.
“We were shocked to learn that agricultural infrastructure had been targeted,” said Agriculture and Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau.
That includes the infrastructure to harvest, store and transport the wheat. To protect supplies of its key staples, Ukraine this week banned many agricultural exports, including wheat.
At the emergency G7 meeting, there were promises to provide wheat to countries that needed it, but there were few specifics. Manitoba farmer Curtis McRae said his industry will do its best to answer the call.
“My whole career, we were basically trying to feed the world,” he told CTV News. “So the trick is, just plant a lot of whatever we can and hopefully that can help sustain the world.”
Meanwhile, shortages are pushing up wheat prices, exacerbating pandemic-related inflation and making basic foods like bread even more expensive.
“At the moment, I don’t know how the rest of the world can make up for the losses,” said Charlebois from Dalhousie University.
With files from the Associated Press