War in Ukraine. Ports blocked in the same region and, as if that were not enough, paralysis of the port of Shanghai, the largest in the world, due to Covid. Recurring phenomena of drought and famine caused by global warming. Runaway inflation, which began before the conflict unleashed by Russia. All of this creates an explosive mixture for the world agri-food markets, which adds to the upheavals in the oil and gas markets. The UN World Food Program (WFP) raises the alarm to prevent the global hunger crisis from getting out of control. According to the same agency, the current 276 million people in the world who suffer from hunger after the pandemic (before Covid there were 135 million) risk adding 47 million. Grain silos in Ukraine are full. Ports on the Black Sea are blocked, leaving millions of tons of grain trapped in warehouses on land or on ships that cannot movethey explain to the upper floors of the WFP.
An agricultural superpower on its knees
Executive director David Beasley calls for ports to be opened so that food can move to and from Ukraine. Time is running out and the cost will be higher than you can imagine. As Sbastien Abis, researcher of Iris, the French institute for international and strategic relations, and director of Club Demeter, a think tank animated by 74 agri-food companies, points out, if the war does not end immediately, the first to suffer damage to production agricultural will be the Ukrainians and immediately after the countries most dependent on imports of grain from Kiev. Ukraine, adds Abis, author of the book Gopolitique du bl – Un produit vital pour la darkit worldwide, an agricultural superpower, which now no longer exports, unintentionally causing both product shortages and inflation. The world market for soft wheat is strongly influenced by Russia and Ukraine which respectively account for 21% and 10% of world exports. The export of Russian and Ukrainian common wheat mainly goes to North Africa and the Middle East. Countries that already have all kinds of problems depend on Ukrainian imports: Egypt, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco, Yemen and Lebanon. Ukraine also accounts for 15% of global exports of corn, which is mainly used in animal feed.
Cereal prices at historic highs
As for our continent, Mario Draghi, speaking on May 3 at the Strasbourg Parliament (READ his speech HERE), recalled that Ukraine is the fourth largest foreign supplier of food in the European Union. It sends us about half of our corn imports, and a quarter of our vegetable oils. Russia and Ukraine account for over a quarter of global grain exports. Nearly 50 countries in the world depend on them for more than 30% of their imports. In March, the prices of cereals and main foodstuffs reached all-time highs. There is a strong risk that rising prices, coupled with reduced availability of fertilizers, will lead to food crises.
The Italian situation
Neither in Europe nor in Italy there is an immediate problem of supplies, unlike in North Africa, in the Middle East: the experts agree on this. Our country receives from Russia and Ukraine only 5% of global imports of soft wheat, 15% for corn and 13% for fertilizers. On the other hand, there is a strong import of sunflower oil, about 46%, of which Ukraine is among the top producers in the world, but it is a product that can be replaced with others. But all this does not protect us from the very strong increase in the prices of these goods, which in fact we encounter every day when shopping.
Fighting food waste
It is therefore clear that just as the war opened the eyes of the European Union to the urgent need to adopt a common defense policy and a common policy on energy (including the choices on nuclear power), even on the agri-food level it is necessary to give a strategic breath to European policy, with the aim on the one hand of increasing production, while safeguarding environmental sustainability, and on the other of being increasingly independent from imports from countries at risk. THEFinally, as emphasized by Caterina Batello, who boasts twenty years of experience at FAO as a team leader for Agroecology, it becomes more essential than ever to fight food waste.. According to the FAO itself, the United Nations organization for food and agriculture, during the food production chain as much as 30% of the products destined for our tables are wasted. Not only that, even when the products reach the distribution centers and subsequently our refrigerators and our tables, a percentage that is difficult to calculate ends up in the garbage. Each of us can play the part of him. It is urgent, says Batello, that in richer countries there is a change in food patterns: for example, we still eat too much meat and this has enormous consequences, among other things pushing deforestation and the demand for corn.