Skip to main content

Rising Food Costs Inform Global Links During Ukranian Crisis

As Ukraine continues to be battered by Russia’s brutal assault, the country’s government is battening down its hatches for the long haul. The latest evidence? The Ukrainian government banned the export of wheat and other food staples this week, a move that Roman Leshchenko, Ukraine’s minister of agrarian and food policy, said was necessary to “meet the needs of the population in critical food products” in a Facebook post.

With food prices already soaring due to pandemic-squeezed supply chains, Russia’s unprovoked attack on this sovereign nation further ratchets up pressure on U.S. food prices and reverberates around the world, raising the risk of severe food shortages in some of the poorest nations. This war brings our global food system into focus like never before, but there is some encouraging news on the surrounding edges of what is a bleak vista.

Stalks of rye grain against a dark blue sky.
Rye grain. Siegfried Layda/Getty Images

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “wheat alone accounts for an estimated 20% of human calorie consumption.” Depending on your source, Ukrainian and Russian wheat exports account for anywhere between 20 and 30% of the world’s wheat exports in a region known as Europe’s breadbasket.

Not only will this war have a detrimental effect on American bread and cereal prices, but countries across the Sahara — North Africa and the Middle East and into Asia — rely heavily on wheat imports from Russia and Ukraine. The International Grains Council (IGC), in fact, cites that about one-third of Ukraine’s total wheat exports are shipped to three countries: Egypt, Indonesia, and Bangladesh.

The IGC also notes that since the start of February, the grains and oilseed price index has leaped up by 17%, driven by a 28% rise in wheat prices, a 23% jump in maize rates, and a 22% climb in barley. (Russia and Ukraine account for one-fifth of global barley exports and Ukraine is the world’s fourth-largest corn exporter.)

Where this news raises the risk of severe food shortages and hunger in some regions of the globe and threatens to further raise food costs have already jumped by about 11% since the start of the pandemic, it also brings into focus positive news from other parts of the world.

Some domestic farmers will benefit from higher prices for wheat and corn as supplies continue to be constricted. Fertilizer prices are bound to rise and livestock producers will have to spend more on feedstock. Higher barley prices will mean more cost to produce beer, driving up prices at the register.

These costs may hurt in the U.S., but they could be devastating in countries like the now Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, which faces a food crisis under its new rulers. Self-imposed international isolation accompanies a cruel drought in the country, putting millions of lives at risk. There is hope for the country, however, from an antagonistic neighbor: India.

India is now the world’s second-largest exporter of wheat, accounting for more than 13% of all global output.  Since the 1960s, Indian wheat production has skyrocketed, increasing to almost 110 million metric tons in 2021. ​As Indian wheat exports will likely exceed their previous 2012-2013 peak, the country has committed to sending food aid to Afghanistan.

Higher grain prices also can prospectively improve the livelihoods of millions of sub-Saharan Africans. McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, estimates that more than 60 percent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa is smallholder farmers. When prices rise, farmers produce more and earn more. About 23 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s GDP comes from agriculture and McKinsey posits that farmers there could produce much more. These growers could potentially double or even triple their output of grains, livestock, and other products with a significant world investment. This includes investment in agricultural elements like irrigation, fertilizer, hybrid seeds, and storage as well as money towards basic infrastructures, like roads, ports, and electricity.

According to a 2021 Board for International Food and Agricultural Development study, sub-Saharan food output, driven by rising food prices, grew twice as fast from 2000 to 2018 as it did from 1980 to 1999.

Still, higher food prices are a stress for hundreds of millions of people. In turn, these will likely become an important part of Russian propaganda, blaming Ukraine and the rest of the West for this increased burden. What this does, though, is bring our interdependence into clear view and, hopefully, encourages nations to come together to not only deal with the current conflict but to spur the wealthiest countries to increase investment and supply infrastructure for food producers and work together to provide aid to those who need it most.

Editors' Recommendations

Matthew Denis
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Matt Denis is an on-the-go remote multimedia reporter, exploring arts, culture, and the existential in the Pacific Northwest…
A huge Le Creuset Cyber Monday sale just started — from $10
Carrots in the Le Creuset Signature cast-iron skillet.

Cyber Monday deals all over the place right now, with many of the biggest retailers discounting some popular products. You’ll appreciate this if you’re in the market for some holiday gifts for the chef in your circle, or if you're looking for something new for your own kitchen. Amazon is having Cyber Monday Le Creuset sale, with all sorts of high quality cookware seeing discounts and prices as low as $10. Skillets, Dutch ovens, mugs, and other kitchen items are available in this sale, so click over to Amazon and add something by Le Creuset to your kitchen.

Why You Should Shop the La Creuset Cyber Monday Sale at Amazon
Le Creuset is a premium cookware brand. It makes high quality cookware that both looks great and cooks great. It’s one of the most sought-after brands when it comes to a discount, as its premium reputation brings with it premium prices. But with this Le Creuset sale at Amazon you can save on cookware across the board. The Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Oval Dutch Oven regularly costs $445, but

Read more
Slow cooker recipes: Cincinnati chili is easier than you think
Put it over spaghetti, we dare you
Cincinnati chili

This time of year, everyone loves good slow cooker recipes. You want one that warms, comforts, and greets you with a delicious scent the moment you walk through the door after a long, chilly autumn day. The slow cooker is a beautiful thing for that very reason - not only does it provide a nearly prep-free meal, but it's the gift that keeps on giving with its delicious promise of a warm and hearty meal through tantalizingly exquisite aromas filling the house all day. And while we all love common slow cooker recipes - a meaty pot roast or Kung Pao chicken, sometimes what we're craving at the end of the day is something a bit out of the ordinary. That's why we love this recipe for Cincinnati chili.
Cincinnati chili is tremendously unique in the world of varying (sometimes competing) American chili dishes. Its flavors are warmer and more exotic, which makes sense as its origins aren't American at all, but Greek. In the early 20th century, Greek-Macedonian immigrant brothers John and Tom Kiradjieff opened a restaurant in Cincinnati. Their chili was flavored with traditional ingredients like chili pepper and cumin but also included more familiar Mediterranean ingredients such as allspice and cinnamon. The deliciously comforting dish caught on, and Cincinnati chili quickly became a regional favorite.
This spicy chili is traditionally served over spaghetti with a generous topping of shredded cheddar on top. Depending on the locals you happen to ask, the best way to enjoy this chili is over spaghetti, with or without cheese, kidney beans, and/or grated white onion. Within these barriers, one cannot go wrong. Just make sure to always, always use your fork to cut the pasta into bite-size portions. Twirling is absolutely out of the question.

Cincinnati chili recipe
While spaghetti is the traditional choice for serving Cincinnati chili, another popular option is pouring a generous heap over hot dogs. If you ask us, this is the absolute best way to make chili dogs.

Read more
Ice cream bread is the lifehack your internal fat kid needs
You like ice cream. You like bread. Why not mix them together?
ice cream bread recipe 6289263 1920

Social media's hottest new recipe trend that's floating around is one that we deeply, truly approve of. Naturally, things like butter boards and new coffee concoctions are always appreciated by those of us who love a fun culinary trend. But there's something about this one that just really tickles us pink - ice cream bread. Maybe it's the tempting simplicity of the name that combines two of the most wonderful things in the world. Maybe it's the fact that the recipe itself is almost simpler than the name. Maybe it's the sprinkles. Whatever the reason, ice cream bread is our new favorite trendy treat.

When we saw this video making the rounds, we decided that we needed to give ice cream bread a try, and the results were pleasantly surprising.

Read more