- – As a result of Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine and the embargo imposed by Moscow on wheat exports, the level of hunger will rise, especially in Africa, but also in the Middle East, even Pakistan, says Matin Qaim, director of the Bonn office. Development Research Center
- It’s hard to calculate exactly how many people will go hungry. But based on past market volatility experience, in the worst case scenario, I’d assume that up to 100 million more people go hungry – and he adds
- – Hunger will increase migration pressure on Europe – warns EU Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojczykowski
- Putin controls a very important area of trade: fertilizers. And without artificial fertilization of plants, nothing works in the fields of the whole world
- You can follow information on the defense of Ukraine 24 hours a day on our website direct relationships
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On December 17, 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi decided to die. For years, the young Tunisian has been single-handedly supporting his widowed mother and five siblings. Now, the corrupt officials not only took more and more bribes from him, but also took away his weight.
Without weight, the 26-year-old from the small Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid can no longer sell his vegetables. Bouazizi poured gasoline on his body and set himself on fire. He died three weeks later.
Suddenly the whole world caught fire.
The murder of a young man sparked mass protests, first in Tunisia and soon in 34 other countries, particularly in the Arab world. These were uprisings against brutal dictators, but they were driven by hunger, which in turn resulted from rising food prices. The so-called Arab Spring, which later led to geopolitical turmoil, wars and the flight of millions of people to Europe.
Now, Germany and Europe once again face a challenge far beyond Russia’s war with Ukraine. Each of these states has up to 30 percent. Participation in the global wheat and corn markets. If they fail as suppliers and are unable to deliver because of the war, or if Russia responds to counter-sanctions, the grain will run out and millions of people will starve, experts agree with these predictions.
While Europeans will not feel it, as the European Union itself covers its grain needs, North African countries in particular may be hit hardest. But also sub-Saharan Africa, which will have to contend with high fertilizer and oil prices.
In the worst case scenario, there could be as many as 100 million people starving
These countries are still battling the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. Emerging and developing countries face a series of crises: the coronavirus, climate change and now their breadbasket is being bombed – warns UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
– As a result of Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine and the embargo imposed by Moscow on wheat exports, the level of hunger will rise, especially in Africa, but also in the Middle East, even Pakistan, says Matin Qaim, director of the Bonn office. Development Research Center.
It is difficult to calculate exactly how many people will starve to death. “Many factors play a role,” says Al-Qaim. – But based on the experience of past market volatility, at worst, I suppose that even another 100 million people are starving as a result of the war in Ukraine – he adds.
Rather, the famine will increase the pressure of migration on Europe
And Putin seems to be raising prices aggressively. Stefan Lukas, a Middle East expert at the University of Greifswald and guest lecturer at the Bundeswehr Academy of Forces and Staff, talks about the blockage of a grain cargo ship in the Black Sea and even its bombing and sinking.
The war, which began on February 24, forced more than three million people to leave Ukraine within three weeks. Nearly two million people fled to Poland alone, at least 197,000 people. To Germany, mostly women and children. Host countries face enormous challenges, ranging from housing to healthcare, from integration into the labor market to schools.
At the same time, sanctions against Putin have shredded billions of holes in the balance sheets of European companies, which also have to deal with the effects of the pandemic. Officials in Brussels and Berlin are only now beginning to measure the shocks the war is causing beyond the continent’s borders.
– Hunger will increase migration pressure on Europe – warns EU Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski. The war in Ukraine is one thing. A senior European diplomat says the EU may face another refugee crisis, besides Ukraine.
Russia is one of the world’s largest fertilizer exporters. What if he stops exporting?
The crisis of 2015 has already shown how fragile the foundations of the Union are. It has led to electoral victories by right-wing parties, destabilization of societies and fundamental conflicts between member states that remain unresolved to this day. That is why politicians must now seek solutions faster and more decisively than they did seven years ago.
If Europe wants to one day live in peace, stability and prosperity again, it is not enough to increase defense budgets, buy F-35 bombers, or allocate millions of dollars to arm Ukraine. A rich old continent has to deal with a global problem. Otherwise, this problem will catch up with him.
“With the Ukraine crisis, it is easy to lose sight of the countries that have been hit hardest by rising food prices,” said Tim Benton, director of future threats research at Chatham House think tank in London. Benton warns that not paying attention to hunger is very dangerous. “Governments in Europe must now greatly support the resilience of these countries,” he added.
In the first place, the food supply of countries threatened with famine should be increased and the sale of basic foodstuffs supported. In addition, it should be ensured, wherever possible, that wheat is harvested in Ukraine and transported by road. “The West should ask itself what are the long-term threats and what are the implications of inaction,” Benton said.
Germany will not have to starve to death. But what that means once Russia establishes its power over the global food supply, Europeans already know. The international fertilizer market is more concentrated than the grain and corn market.
And without artificial fertilization of plants, nothing works in the fields of the whole world. Russia is one of the world’s largest exporters of fertilizers such as ammonium nitrate. In turn, its ally – Belarus – is the main producer of potash fertilizers.
In early February, Moscow already banned the export of ammonium nitrate until April 1, 2022. Leaving more fertilizer in the country would keep prices moderate. Earlier, China imposed a ban on the export of phosphate fertilizers until June 2022.
Both of these factors combined made Europeans aware of their dependence on foreign suppliers. In addition, there are global bottlenecks in the supply of grain and corn. The crisis has sparked a new debate about the orientation of German agriculture, which is being conducted with increasing intensity.
– The war in Ukraine will lead to food shortages, especially in areas outside Europe, and we will certainly see a significant increase in prices – says Albert Stegmann, Chair of the Working Group on Food and Agriculture in the European Union Parliamentary Group. – That is why we must prepare our food supply for these upcoming crises: through more efficient farming – he points out.
There are a number of plans in the European Union aimed at increasing the productivity and productivity of German agriculture. “We can still plant areas that really have to be set aside,” Stegemann says. The approval procedures for plant protection products should also be re-examined.
Currently, the Federal Environment Agency’s goal is to phase out as many pesticides as possible. It has nothing to do with science anymore. In addition, new breeding methods must be approved that can be used to grow plants resistant to fungal infections, climatic stress and drought.
Especially in SPD, they don’t think much about it. – This is an attempt to use the attack on Ukraine to blow up everything we decided to do for ecological and safe agriculture. We wouldn’t agree with that, says Susanne Mitag, a spokeswoman for SPD agricultural policy in the Bundestag.
“There will be no relaxation of fertilizer regulations with SPD,” explains Agricultural Policy. – In many cases, it is not possible to want to cultivate more land already allocated. He adds that proposals to rely more on genetic engineering do not help overcome the current crisis.
What is possible today
According to experts, there are certainly ways to at least limit the impending disaster. “For example, if corn is not processed into biogas and animal feed,” explains the development researcher. He adds: In Germany, a third of corn crops are converted to biogas.
In addition, politicians should think about feeding livestock less corn and other grains. – But it is difficult to implement in the short term. The farmer cannot be prevented from feeding the animals currently in the barn. Nor can society stop eating meat overnight. In the medium term, this is the right way, but it is unlikely to get us out of the crisis this year, says Al-Qaim. It is much easier to reduce the use of pills for vital energy – even in the short term. – I think that this is an important and correct step in the current crisis – the researcher indicated.
Through his war, Putin introduced a new unit to Europe. But it could end quickly if states become concerned about custody of their citizens. Some facts. The Hungarian government imposed export restrictions on agricultural goods until May 15. Thus, the EU Commission is threatening to prosecute Budapest for violating internal market rules.
Pressure on Putin is mounting daily as brave Ukrainians push back his forces and sanctions weaken the Russian economy. But even if Putin loses this war, the environmental, economic and political consequences could capture the world’s attention for a long time — perhaps even years after the conflict has ended.
After all, the fire that Mohamed Bouazizi lit with his canister is still burning.
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