Why Ukraine’s ports are so important for global food prices

Without free access to places like Odesa, critical global supply lines – and the ability of households to access sufficient and affordable food – will be crippled for several years, writes Laura Wellesley

Tuesday 24 May 2022 14:49 BST
First responders try to clear rubble in the Odesa region
First responders try to clear rubble in the Odesa region (AFP via Getty Images)

In Russia’s war on Ukraine, global food supply has become a strategic weapon. Ukraine is one of the world’s “breadbaskets” – it is the number one exporter of sunflower oil and a major supplier of wheat and maize.

The blockade of Ukraine’s ports is choking critical supplies of these crops to the world and risks tipping vulnerable populations in developing countries closer to famine: before the invasion, Ukraine and Russia were together supplying 100 per cent of Somalia’s wheat imports, 80 per cent of Egypt’s and 75 per cent of Sudan’s.

Global food prices have reached all-time highs since Russia’s invasion and households in countries across the world are suffering the consequences. Humanitarian agencies are struggling not only to reach those suffering from an acute lack of basic supplies in Ukraine itself, but to maintain their operations in other parts of the world as food and energy prices skyrocket.

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