why the UN warns of a risk of famine in several countries

“A hurricane of famines.” This is the dark omen formulated on Monday 14 March by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the 19th day of the Kiev-Moscow conflict. ‘The war in Ukraine means hunger in Africa’also regretted Kristalina Georgieva, director of the IMF, on CBS News on Sunday (in EnglishFranceinfo explains the reasons for this growing concern from international institutions.

Because the situation is already critical

Global food insecurity is not a new phenomenon. “It hasn’t stopped since 2017”reminds franceinfo the economist Thierry Pouch, head of the Department of Studies and Forecasts of the Permanent Assembly of Chambers of Agriculture (APCA). World hunger has worsened significantly since the onset of the Covid-19 health crisis. According to a United Nations report, up to 811 million people were malnourished by 2020“With the Ukrainian conflict, we are gradually approaching one billion” of people who have no food, Thierry Pouch believes.

The multiplication of world conflict contributes to global degradation, and for good reason: the war leads to a decline in food production in the countries concerned. Farmlands are destroyed during the battles, but not only. “Railways that bring grain wagons to ports can be damagedthe economist analyzes. In the event of war, a rural exodus may take place. Farmers then change jobs or enter into conflict. This is what happened in Syria.”

This destruction of infrastructure is of particular concern the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (CAM), which estimates that the areas planted in Ukraine this spring for maize and sunflower “is reduced by 30%”. “Even if the war ends tomorrow, there will be consequences” judge with AFP Sébastien Abis, associate researcher at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (Iris).

Because many countries depend on Russian and Ukrainian wheat

In times of peace, Russia and Ukraine are major agricultural powers, exporting their production massively, especially wheat. Some high-producing countries, such as Ukraine, release a significant export surplus: sOf 110 million tons of arable crops, cereals or protein crops, Ukraine puts 80 on the world market”, stated Tuesday on franceinfo Sébastien Abis. The two countries are among the largest wheat exporters in the world. Between them they keep about one third of world trade in this commodity

“Russia accounts for 22% of global wheat exports. It is the world’s largest exporter.”

Thierry Pouch, economist

at franceinfo

The UN Secretary-General recalled on Monday that: “45 African and Least Developed Countries import at least a third of their wheat from Ukraine or Russia – 18 of these countries import at least 50%. This includes countries such as Burkina Faso, Egypt, the Republic of Congo, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.”

For example, Egypt is 84% ​​dependent on imports from Russia and Ukraine to provide itself with wheat, recalls Thierry Pouch. “Lebanon is 51% dependent on wheat from Ukraine. For Turkey, it is 63% dependent on Russian wheat”, he adds. This economic subordination is old. It refers to the competition that Vladimir Putin has introduced to the agricultural sector for several years now† “It’s a real battle. There are a dozen grain exporters and a multitude of applicants. Russia has managed to push the United States from its leading position in certain countries through competitive effects.”the economist analyzes.

“Russia has long understood that wheat is a weapon like any other”Confirm to the shipment Denis Beauchamp, head of a grain cooperative and president of the FranceAgriTwittos association. Result: the countries “largely dependent on frontline grain imports”, reports the World Food Program (WFP).

Because exports are disrupted by war

Exports have been at their lowest level since the start of the war in Ukraine. the Ukrainian government has decided accomplish a license to restrict the export of certain agricultural products, including sunflower oil. The same story on the part of Moscow, which overnight decided to restrict its grain exports to four former Soviet republics (Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan).

Russia has also banned “export of white sugar and raw cane sugar to third countries”, reported the press service of the Russian government. These restrictions on grains should remain in place until June 30 and those on sugar until August 31. The Russian government indicates that this decision has been taken “to protect the domestic food market from external constraints”reports AFP.

Because the prices are exploding

According to a WFP report released Friday, March 11 (in English)the conflict in Ukraine has “immediate effects”. In the first place, constantly rising prices in world markets, although some products, such as grains and sugar, were already in high inflation due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “Grain prices had already risen last year, but the conflict gave it an extra dimension. comments Thierry Pouch. the On 7 March we arrived at 400 euros per tonne. Normal values ​​are between 180 and 230 euros per ton!”

Famines are likely to strike firstthe poorest countries such as Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Syria or even Yemen, list WFP† It could be “sowing the seeds of political instability and unrest around the world”UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned. In Tunisia, where foodstuffs Ukrainians accounted for nearly 48% of wheat imports in 2019, Last week protests broke out over food shortages and the cost of living.