Following a speech at the NATO headquarters in Belgium on Thursday, President Joe Biden warned of impending global food shortages caused by sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
“With regard to food shortage, yes, we did talk about food shortages. And — and it’s going to be real,” Biden said.
“The price of these sanctions is not just imposed upon Russia, it’s imposed upon an awful lot of countries as well, including European countries and our country as well,” he continued. “And — because both Russia and Ukraine have been the breadbasket of Europe in terms of wheat, for example — just to give you one example.”
“But we had a long discussion in the G7 with the — with both the United States, which has a significant — the third-largest producer of wheat in the world — as well as Canada, which is also a major, major producer. And we both talked about how we could increase and disseminate more rapidly food. Food shortages.”
Biden also said that he and other world leaders discussed “urging all the European countries and everyone else to end trade restrictions on — on sending — limitations on sending food abroad.”
“And so, we are in the process of working out, with our European friends, what it would be — what it would take to help alleviate the concerns relative to food shortages,” he added. “We also talked about a significant, major U.S. investment, among others, in terms of providing for the need for humanitarian assistance, including food, as we move forward.”
Arif Husain, chief economist at the UN World Food Programme, explained that 26 countries get more than half their wheat supply from Russia and Ukraine, and with planting season just one week away, if the conflict in Ukraine doesn’t end soon, harvest will be “sharply reduced” causing “a real danger.”
“If this war doesn’t get sorted out in the next couple of weeks, things will get even worse,” Husain said, according to National Geographic. “That means Ukraine will not be able to plant corn. The winter wheat in the ground will not be fertilized, and the harvest sharply reduced. That’s a real danger. They are a country of 40 million people, but they produce food for 400 million. That’s the reality of a globalized world. We are all in this together.”
Husain highlighted previous food security crises that led to riots, uprisings and governments collapsing, noting that the world is even more volatile today in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In 2008 we didn’t have COVID,” he said. “We didn’t have war in Yemen or Syria or in Ethiopia or northeast Nigeria. Because of COVID, governments are tapped out; debt levels are as high as they have ever been in many poor countries. Inflation is at record levels. Even before Ukraine was invaded food prices were at 10-year highs and fuel prices were at seven-year highs. You add job losses and income losses combined with high prices, people are getting squeezed from both sides. This crisis couldn’t have come at a worse time.”