Food prices: the damage caused by Russia

Dear Editor,

Your readers have seen that the prices of many foods and fertilizers rose sharply in 2020 and 2021.

This was due to supply chain issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and changing demand.

Russia’s military action in Ukraine has significantly exacerbated this. So, food prices have continued to rise in 2022.

Here is what we know about how Putin’s illegal, unprovoked and premeditated invasion of Ukraine is having a negative global impact which is also felt here in The Bahamas.

Even before the war, according to the World Food Programme, almost one billion people in 92 countries did not have enough food to eat and 55 countries, mostly in Africa and Asia, were already in acute hunger crises, emergency or famine conditions.

Now, at least 1.7 billion are directly affected by the current surge in food, energy and commodity prices. Forty-three million people are already living a step away from famine, and almost 570,000 people are estimated to be living and dying in famine-like conditions.

Until Russia’s invasion in February, Ukraine was one of the largest exporters of grains and vegetable oils, exporting grain to meet the needs for up to 400 million people worldwide.

Pre-invasion, it accounted for 12 percent of global wheat, 12 percent of global barley, 18 percent of global maize, and almost 50 percent of global sunflower oil exports.

Because of Russia’s continued bombardment of cities and infrastructure across Ukraine, and its blockade of ports, the country’s ability to export its produce has been crippled.

The United Nations (UN) estimates that up to 25 million tons of grain destined for export remains in storage in Ukraine with its Black Sea ports blocked and road/rail capacity severely limited.

Our sanctions against Russia do not target exports of food supplies or medicines for developing countries.

Ships carrying cargo to or from Russia are not within the scope of the United Kingdom’s (UK) transport sanctions. We are calling on all countries to keep food trade flowing — the worst outcome now would be an obstruction of food trade; we know from the last crisis the best way to keep prices down is to keep trade flowing.

We are urgently working with the UN, the G7 and the international community to explore the best solutions to extract the 25 million tons of grain currently stuck in Ukraine.

The UK, working with international partners, is determined to support countries to mitigate the impact on their economies and their people.

At the spring meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, we, along with the other governors, agreed to the largest ever commitment from the World Bank to developing countries — $170 billion over the next 15 months.

The bank has announced that $12 billion of this will be committed to help tackle food insecurity, adding to the $18 billion already approved.

Ending this conflict swiftly is in everyone’s interests.

Russia’s actions have not just violated the sovereignty of an independent and democratic nation, killing innocent civilians and destroying a vibrant economy, but also presents a threat to the global economy.

That is why we need to see Russia cease its attacks and withdraw its forces from Ukraine’s borders.

Sarah Dickson

British high commissioner

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