Ukraine war: Disrupted supply chain undermining global food security, UN says

Humanitarian aid from a UN convoy being unloaded from a truck in Sumy, Ukraine, on March 18, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

GENEVA (NYTIMES) - Ukraine's food supply chain is "falling apart" amid the Russian invasion, and the disruption of food supplies within the country is threatening crucial exports of grain that could undermine global food security, the United Nations said on Friday (March 18).

The World Food Programme said it has mobilised food supplies for around three million people caught in areas of heavy fighting, but that it will need US$590 million (S$800 million) to fund its operation for four months.

"The consequences of this conflict in Ukraine are radiating outwards, triggering a wave of collateral hunger across the globe," Mr Jakob Kern, the organisation's operations director, told reporters. "Ukraine is a catastrophe compounding what is already a year of catastrophic hunger."

Russia and Ukraine account for nearly 30 per cent of the world's wheat trade, Kern said, and the interruption of those exports is driving up prices to levels that will be beyond the reach of millions of poor people.

The price of wheat has jumped nearly a quarter since Feb 21, Mr Kern said. That increase has pushed the World Food Programme's monthly food bill up by about US$70 million, a sum that would allow it to support four million people.

"That's four million people less receiving food," he said.

In particular, he noted that Lebanon, which gets more than 60 per cent of its wheat from Ukraine, is among the Middle Eastern countries that are heavily dependent on Ukrainian grain supplies and stand to be heavily affected by the fallout of the war.

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