SUMMIT, New Jersey — The world is more interconnected than ever before. Global trade reached a record high in 2021 and before the COVID-19 pandemic, global tourism reached its highest peak ever in 2019. Interconnectivity brings a number of economic benefits to the world, but it also means that local issues can become global problems. This is especially the case when it comes to food supply lines due to the concentrated nature of food production.
Wheat Crisis Around the World
Prior to the Russo-Ukrainian War, the two countries combined to supply 30% of the world’s wheat and barley. This supply accounted for over half of the wheat imports for 36 countries. Due to the devastation in Ukraine, not only is the wheat and barley production suppressed, the cost of acquiring the remaining supply has drastically increased. Insurance premiums for vessels moving through the Black Sea have also increased due to imminent danger, causing the cost of transportation to rise significantly for receiving countries.
Because of the instability and rising costs of receiving wheat and barley from this region, many countries have turned to other nations for their imports, such as Canada or Australia, though these can be equally, if not more, expensive due to a greater distance, according to United States Institute of Peace (USIP). All of this has led to food scarcity and rising food prices in many countries.
Globally, 40 million people could be pushed into poverty and in the Horn of Africa, 20 million people could face starvation by year’s end. To counter this, the G-7 leaders have pledged $4.5 billion in aid to address food insecurity worldwide, both short-term and long-term, part of a total pledge of $14 billion this year.
The majority of the $4.5 billion in aid will go to solving the short-term problems of food insecurity. Over half of this funding comes from the United States, pledging $2.7 billion total, with $2 billion being going to direct humanitarian intervention, The New York Times reports. This aid will go to the countries and regions with the greatest immediate risk of starvation and poverty.
Additionally, G-7 leaders are desperately trying to get grain moved out of Ukraine by having Russia remove its port blockades, according to The New York Times. Unfortunately, Russia seems unmoved by sanctions on this point. G-7 leaders continue to try and find solutions, though no plans are publicly known.
The remaining $760 million aid the United States will use to upgrade food delivery systems. These fixes hope to make food supply lines more stable in the coming years. This investment will support already existing projects created by 47 countries and regional organizations determined to address increasing needs across multiple regions, The New York Times reports.
This may have had a positive effect during the Russo-Ukrainian War, but the majority of its impact could appear in the next food security crisis. As the Chief Economist of the World Food Programme, Dr. Arif Husain writes in his USIP article, “Shocks like the war in Ukraine put into stark relief that food insecurity challenges are not always related to availability issues. Rather, it’s a question of accessibility and affordability.”
Addressing food insecurity worldwide cannot happen overnight. To fight against food insecurity, addressing underlying supply chain issues is a priority. Of course, the $4.5 billion in aid pledged by G-7 leaders will do wonders in easing the immediate suffering of an estimated 323 million people, but to prevent it from happening again leaders must look for a long-term solution.
Fortunately, it seems that this pledge has taken this into consideration. This won’t be the last crisis the world faces but by investing in upgrades to struggling food delivery systems, the next one might not threaten as many lives.
– Benjamin Brown