The food crisis is bigger than Ukraine

While Russia's war has undoubtedly caused real problems in global food markets, they are more complex and go beyond the current flare-up of war.

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Russia's blockade of Ukrainian food shipments and the potential loss of Ukrainian harvests due to disruptions from the war have dominated headlines in recent months. Between February and June, global wheat prices surged by more than 60 per cent, fuelling humanitarian concerns and warnings from international development agencies about increased food insecurity in poor African and Asian countries.

But many of these headlines have been misleading. In poor countries, around 80 per cent of all calories come from cereals. The most important is rice, which accounts for 27 per cent of per capita caloric intake in the developing world, and is the main staple in Asia. In countries such as Myanmar and Cambodia, rice makes up 80 per cent of calories.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2022, with the headline The food crisis is bigger than Ukraine. Subscribe