In late March, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine entered its second month, U.N. agencies began to issue dire warnings regarding the world’s food supply. The war, they said, was pushing food-insecure countries to the brink of a “devastating” hunger crisis, with the combination of brutal fighting in Ukraine and unprecedented economic sanctions on Russia threatening to disrupt as much as a third of the world’s wheat exports. Just two weeks after the war’s start, spot prices for a bushel of wheat skyrocketed from less than $8 to nearly $13.
The World Food Programme said the soaring prices were placing 345 million people at risk of “acute food insecurity,” with an additional 50 million drifting toward a state of emergency — particularly in North Africa, a region that relies on wheat imports from the two nations. Coming on the heels of a supply chain-disrupting pandemic, the situation was a “perfect storm,” as U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in early June.