Written by Aimen Jamil and Zartaj Chaudhary 12:25 pm Articles, Current Affairs, Published Content

The Russia-Ukraine War: Impact on Global Food Security

One of the most recent factors negatively affecting food security is the armed struggle between Russia and Ukraine. Aimen Jamil and Zartaj Chaudhary explain how droughts, shortage of fertilisers, and geopolitical tensions are possibly creating a global food crisis.
About the Author(s)
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Ms Aimen Jamil studies International Relations at NUML. Her areas of interest are South Asia, diplomacy, and human rights.
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Ms Zartaj Chaudhary studies International Relations at NUML.


Amongst the many domains of security studies, food security is a salient aspect and covers the most fundamental necessity of humans all across the globe. According to the World Food Summit, food security occurs when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

To meet the requirements of ensuring food security, stability and proper resources for the utilization of food are necessary. The modern-day global food security crisis is not occurring in a vacuum. Armed wars, natural disasters, unjust alternate regulations, weather exchange, speedy population enlargement, and growing meal intake all pose extreme threats to food protection.

Historical Reference

Historically, we have a great deal of proof of the way conflicts lead to meal shortages. The French Revolution of 1789, for instance, was spurred partly by the help of bad grain harvests and economic pressures that ended in a dramatic increase in bread prices. In North Africa and the Middle East, the Arab Spring upheavals of 2011, and between 1941 and 1944, hundreds of thousands of people died due to the German siege of Leningrad (St. Petersburg), Soviet Union.

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Conflicts are often caused by a complicated combination of interconnected monetary, environmental, political, cultural, and spiritual variables. Armed war has extensive human, societal, and financial expenses. At some point during the war, the best-ever food manufacturing is normally decreased, and in some circumstances collapses, resulting in hunger and starvation, in addition to the forced migration of big numbers of human beings.

Food Insecurity

Russia and Ukraine together are considered the “Breadbasket of Europe,” meaning they are the producers and exporters of important grains and vegetable oils. Ever since the war erupted between Russia and Ukraine, a major agricultural export halt has been seen adversely affecting the food supply and security in Europe and other countries. Russia and Ukraine are the world’s predominant cereal exporters.

Several fundamental vegetation, including wheat, maize, barley, and sunflower oil, are net exporters from these international locations. The bulk of the planet relies on meal imports from Russia and Ukraine. Southeast Asia, the Central East and the whole of Europe are major importers.

In the global trade of food and agricultural products, the Russian Federation and Ukraine are major actors. The Russian Federation and Ukraine exported over 30% of the worldwide wheat market in 2021. Between 2016/17 and 2020/21, Russia’s worldwide maize export market share is incredibly small, at 3%. Ukraine’s maize export share was higher during the same period, averaging 15% and placing it as the world’s fourth-largest maize exporter.

New Disruptions

Exports of sunflower oil from both countries accounted for 55 percent of world supplies. Russia is additionally a significant fertilizer exporter; the leading exporter of nitrogen fertilizers, the second-largest supplier of potassium, and also the third-largest exporter of phosphorus in 2020.

Agricultural production has been impacted by means of wars throughout history. However, the nature of Russia’s conflict with Ukraine, a fight between two agricultural production superpowers in a global agricultural marketplace, has visible ramifications for worldwide agriculture and food security.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), fifty countries rely on Russia and Ukraine for at least thirty percent of their wheat imports. In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), these countries include Lebanon, Egypt, Libya, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Tunisia, Iran, Jordan, and Morocco.

Exports from Ukraine have stalled, future harvests are doubtful, global prices of agricultural commodities have risen, and the international locations most susceptible are people who depend upon agricultural exports from Ukraine and Russia to feed their residents. Food insufficiency has resulted in rising costs both within the conflict zone and outside the world.

Egypt is the world’s largest wheat importer, with over 70% of its wheat coming from the Black Sea. Due to disrupted supply, the country is receiving wheat at a very high price ultimately presenting problems for Egypt’s budget. Relying heavily on food imports and international aid to meet its food needs, Yemen is experiencing famine-like conditions which have further been worsened by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Nearly half of Brazil’s potash fertilizer comes from Russia and Belarus, the world’s leading soybean producers. Its supplies are now down to barely three months. This season, members of the National Soybean Farmers association have been instructed to use less fertilizer, if any at all. Brazil’s soybean harvest, which was already suffering from a severe drought, is expected to shrink even worse.

Being the cheapest exporter of wheat, barley and sunflower, Russia and Ukraine are very attractive to low-income countries, but the Russian invasion could be a tipping point in a global food catastrophe because the food prices are expected to surge by 20%, causing a significant spike. This will further aggravate the situation of the global food crisis after COVID-19.

Further shortages will have global consequences, especially in developing nations, where price repercussions could restrict fertilizer use and result in poor local harvests at a time when global inventories are low and prices are high. Russia could probably restrict dietary substances in reaction to the cruel financial sanctions imposed on it (as in 2010, when Putin created a ban on exports of grain following an extreme drought that hit the US).

Typically, warfare has an effect on meal supply everywhere in struggling zones because of a decrease in meal production, and in some other places because of a decrease in the export of vital staple food gadgets. Russia has restricted exports of its own fertilizers since the invasion, and if this results in decreased agricultural yields and less utilization, food security will be exacerbated.

Warfare is simultaneously disrupting markets for finished agricultural merchandise and agricultural inputs. Agricultural crops which include wheat and oilseeds are used to make staple food which includes bread and cooking oil. Agriculture generated nearly 9% of Ukraine’s GDP in 2020, in line with the international alternate management. Due to the blockade by Russia on Ukraine’s agriculture exports, the call is to increase the delivery of food fees.

Policy Measures

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia poses grave threats to world food security, demanding a variety of responses from nations and international organizations. The current circumstances are very fluid and are indicating further uncertainty in an already tense global market. Following are some of the policy measures which need to be taken in order to overcome this food crisis:

  1. The international response to the Ukrainian crisis should include a significant global food security aspect, and any sanctions imposed on Russia should not have an impact on those parties who rely on Russian goods.
  2. Food and fertilizer exports should be allowed to continue unhindered; if this is not possible, mitigation measures for affected third-party nations should be offered. Sanctions against those industries will only increase global shortages.
  3. Countries should work together to increase energy and fertilizer supplies, assist farmers in increasing plantings and agricultural yields, and eliminate regulations that restrict exports and imports, divert food to biofuel, or encourage excessive storage, according to World Bank President David Malpass.
  4. In addition to sending ammunition and other supplies for Ukraine’s war effort, as well as financial assistance to the country’s impoverished people, it may be wise to send in farmers to help Ukraine’s agricultural sector recover once the war has subsided. However, it is unclear whether it will be safe to do so.
  5. The global Zero Hunger initiative relies heavily on smallholder farmers. There are about half a million smallholder farms in the world and two billion people depend on them. Despite being highly efficient in managing their work, they face a lot of barriers like lack of power in supply chains and market access, lack of capital and means to diversify their crops, and lack of rural-urban connectivity. If support is provided to them then global hunger could be tackled and alternate resources could be generated for food production.
  6. A number of nations have excess food inventories and hence they should be encouraged to release those stocks, particularly for sale to the World Food Programme, so that they can satisfy the humanitarian requirements of the populations affected by the war. This step particularly requires instilling the humanitarian spirit among people and extending their support towards war-torn countries and their people.
  7. Citizens must urge the governments for financial and political support to ensure that people have access to food.
  8. Subsidized chemical fertilizer production and trade must decrease, while investments in organic inputs must increase to provide better opportunities for climate-resilient smallholder farming and help the ecological environment.
  9.  Developing an inclusive food system is the most effective strategy to deal with hunger and poverty structurally while also addressing the climate issue, creating job opportunities, and removing the core causes of social discontent and violence.


In short, the Russia-Ukraine crisis is a wake-up call for every nation. Although the Russia-Ukraine war has more adverse impacts on energy production, humanity, economic stability, and territorial sovereignty, the growing food crisis is not something that can be neglected. A peaceful end to the current war is highly encouraged so that the world order can return to stabilize itself after successive incursions of a global pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article/paper are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Paradigm Shift.

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