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Weaponizing food insecurity, again

Russia's recent termination of the Black Sea grain agreement, allowing tonnes of Ukrainian grain to be shipped to 45 nations, raises concerns about global food security

Russia's recent decision to terminate the Black Sea grain agreement, allowing tonnes of Ukrainian grain to be shipped to 45 nations, has raised concerns over global food security. As the war between Russia and Ukraine continues since February 2022, nearly half of Ukraine's food exports, mainly directed towards developing nations, could be adversely affected. Despite Russia's existing memorandum of understanding with the UN for exporting fertilizer and grain without any sanctions, the termination of the grain deal could have far-reaching consequences for the global food landscape.

Russia's historical discontent with the grain deal as its renewal approached was not new. However, for the first time, President Putin explicitly declared the termination of the agreement, leading to widespread uncertainty. The possibility of resuming the deal or its indefinite halt could severely impact global food security. Surprisingly, though, many grain futures, including corn and wheat, have barely moved since Monday (July 17), which may suggest an extension is imminent. Let's hope so.

READ: Farmers plan biggest wheat crop in more than two decades due to war in Ukraine

Still, uncertainty is highly undesirable when global trades are concerned. Ukraine is responsible for a substantial share of global corn and wheat exports. Although rail shipments remain an option, the efficiency of Black Sea transport is unparalleled in the region. 

Ukraine's significance in the global food market cannot be understated. Prior to the war, its food exports had the capacity to feed 400 million people, surpassing the entire population of the United States. The country's farmers contributed one-tenth of the world's wheat and nearly half of the globally sold sunflower oil. The repercussions of any disruption in this region resonate across the globe, much like what would happen if Canada were to face invasion. Such is the interconnected nature of global markets.

READ: Ottawa’s tariffs on Russian fertilizers cost Canadian farmers millions 

The Black Sea grain deal played a pivotal role in easing concerns about food security and potential famine. This deal averted a more dire situation, with food prices having soared at grocery stores just twelve months ago due to inflationary pressures caused by the ongoing war. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization's cereal price index, which stood at 147.3 months after the conflict's start, experienced a 14% decrease in June, reaching 126.6. Similarly, the overall food price index saw a notable drop of nearly 12%, from 140.6 to 122.3, during the same period, largely attributed to the Black Sea grain deal.

The Kremlin's shift in tone regarding the grain deal likely reflects how the war is progressing. In an apparent attempt to utilize all means necessary to further its cause, Russia seems to be weaponizing hunger – a historically effective tactic to inflict suffering upon populations. The world has witnessed the dark side of food geopolitics throughout history, and unfortunately, it seems that history may repeat itself.

READ: With lower commodity prices, why aren’t food prices dropping?

The termination of the Black Sea grain deal would threaten global food security and stability. The international community must mobilize and rally to extend the agreement to prevent dire consequences. This situation serves as a stark reminder of Russia's significant influence and power in shaping the global food security agenda. It is essential to recognize and address such challenges to counter the potential evil that exists on Earth. As the world faces these issues, the gravity of ensuring food security for all nations becomes ever more apparent.

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