Opinion: Hunger Games — Russo-Ukrainian War Worsens Global Famine

“A global famine is not out of the question, with the worst effect of the sanctions against Russia having not even been felt yet – on us and by us.”

May 09, 2022 | By Michel Santi
russia ukraine war exacerbates global famine
Image: Daniel Berehulak/The New York Times

Hyperglobalisation has killed us off! It makes us irreversibly dependent on each other on a global scale, so much so that punitive sanctions placed on a medium-sized country now have an impact on production chains on the other side of the planet, ending up working against those who decreed them.

The Russia campaign is of course having the worst effect on Russia itself, except that Russia is still powerful – not so much by dint of its nuclear arms – but by dint of the rest of the world’s dependence on it. Fifty or so countries spread across the globe consume Russian and Ukrainian wheat and some of which like Turkey and Egypt rely critically on it with nearly 65 per cent of their needs coming from these two war-torn producers. We have now, therefore, understood that Russia and Ukraine, but also Belarus, are essential for our food provision and that long-term disruptions will clearly have disastrous consequences. A global famine is not out of the question, with the worst effect of the sanctions against Russia having not even been felt yet – on us and by us.

ukraine wheat
Wheatfield in the east of Ukraine. Image: Polina Rytova/Unsplash

In fact, the dearth of fertilisers is the greatest threat posed at a time when these sanctions have thus far not had much of an impact on supply chains. For the very first time in modern history, it is all farmers and producers across the world who are starting to feel, with regards to their harvests that are threatened with devastation, the nascent lack of chemical fertilisers, the price of which have already soared by 75 per cent in a year. The cultivation of coffee in Costa Rica, soya in Brazil, and potatoes in Peru are on their way to being decimated by between 30 and 50 per cent in the absence of fertilisers. It is the whole continent of Africa that is also about to suffer freefalls of 40 per cent in their rice and maize harvests, and the whole world will see unprecedented price increases across a whole range of foodstuffs, from dairy products to meat. And let us make no mistake, because this insecurity and alimentary stress – as well as the hyperinflationary spiral that is accompanying them – are here to stay, even if the war in Ukraine were to somehow magically come to a halt today.

brazil chemical fertilizer
Image: Davi Pinheiro/Reuters

There are in fact no less than three billion 300 million individuals who are dependent – to feed themselves – on chemical fertilisers. It is therefore Humanity that risks succumbing to what threatens to be the worst famine in the History of the World. Is it necessary to outline the short term effects of such malnutrition that would lead to violent social upheavals, that would in turn degenerate into riots and deaths? We must send these economists packing who claim that the implosion of Russia’s economy will have only a temporary impact on our lives on the basis that its GDP barely stacks up to that of the Netherlands and Belgium combined. These fallacious calculations and predictions, that only take into account the size of an economy in absolute value, serve as a reminder for those who underestimated the destruction caused by the fall of Lehman Brothers, a firm that was not in and of itself a significant establishment. These experts – of past and present – are overlooking the domino effect that the bankruptcy of the banks had, let alone the fall of nations, in a climate of intense globalisation and interdependence.

antiwar protest, stop russo-ukraine war
Antiwar protest in Hong Kong, 25 February 2022. Image: Egor Lyfar/Unsplash

After a pandemic that some countries are still not out of yet and that will have traumatised our generation, it is perhaps time to face up to the fact that the ideal solution to the Russo-Ukrainian problem is not borne of this world, that a war is never completely won, that emotion on the geopolitical level rarely makes for good counsel, and that it is finally time to return some sense back to this world.

Michel Santi

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