Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is fuelling famine worldwide, new research warns.
The war has put food supply at risk globally – with potentially devastating implications, say scientists.
The number of people facing food insecurity has more than doubled since 2020 – with the war exacerbating the problem.
Now computer simulations have put flesh on the bones – accounting for the indirect implications for the first time.
It incorporates data from 192 countries and territories and encompasses 125 food and agricultural products.
Russia and Ukraine are responsible for producing an incredible quantity of vital grain and cooking oils – as well as fertilizers that bolster crop yields.
Moritz Laber, a Ph.D. student at the Complexity Science Hub in Vienna, explained: “This model enabled us to simulate shocks to specific products and countries, closely monitoring the subsequent effects across the entire supply chain.
It quantifies relative reductions in availability compared to before – shedding fresh light on the magnitude of the crisis. The study was published in the journal Nature Food.
Remarkably, the international team found indirect effects often exceeded direct. For example, a shock to Ukrainian corn production led to a 13% decline in pork availability in Southern Europe.
In comparison, a shock to Ukrainian pork production had a negligible effect of less than 1%.
In a worst-case scenario where agricultural production was completely lost, the study unveiled diverse effects on products and regions worldwide.
The loss of grains, particularly maize, reached up to 85%, while edible oils, especially sunflower, experienced losses of up to 89%.
Laber said: “Additionally, certain meat types, such as poultry, suffered losses of up to 25% in various countries.”
Southern Europe fares worst with 19 out of 125 products with losses of more than 10%, followed by West Asia and North Africa, where this is the case for 15 and 11, respectively.
The findings emphasize localized production disruptions have far-reaching implications, extending beyond geographic boundaries through trade relationships and the entire production chain.
Consequently, it is imperative to consider both direct and indirect effects when estimating losses and formulating effective interventions.
As the Russia-Ukraine conflict enters its second year, food prices are still above 2021 levels, according to the European Council.
In addition, various events, including extreme weather events, economic crises, and geopolitical tensions, can trigger similar disruptions.
Last year, the UN declared global hunger levels “are at a new high” – rising to 276 million from 135 million before the pandemic.
It revealed the number of people living in outright famine conditions has increased by more than 500 percent since 2016.
It accused Vladimir Putin’s aggression of “amplifying and accelerating” the drivers of food insecurity and global hunger — climate change, Covid-19 and inequality.
The conflict has closed Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, halting food exports to many developing countries which rely on imports of staple foods from abroad.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
Edited by Deborah .C. Amirize and Virginia Van Zandt