The consequences of the Ukraine crisis are likely to last for months, if not years. If the cuts in wheat exports from Russia and Ukraine are as severe as expected, global wheat supplies will be severely limited. If fertilizer exports are drastically reduced, global markets for food sources will become tighter. This will put vulnerable people around the world at risk of rising food costs and starvation.
The small gains in ecological conservation, gender equality, and nutritional diversification will be eroded by the large upheavals the world is experiencing. The magnitude of this shock shows the underlying fragility of our food and agricultural systems.
The conflict in Ukraine and trade sanctions against Russia, when combined with the present concentration of wheat-exporting countries and climate-induced vulnerabilities in important global breadbaskets, are causing volatility that can quickly overwhelm existing mitigation measures.
Reduced global wheat supplies and price hikes have resulted in severe food insecurity and economic consequences for all wheat-importing countries and humanitarian agencies. Reduced worldwide grain productivity as a result of fertilizer supply constraints and price increases, particularly in low-income, is another challenge. As a result of limited fuel supply driving up agricultural production costs, food prices have risen, and global poverty and malnutrition have increased.
There is no question that alleviating food security challenges on our doorstep should be the world’s top concern. This will entail increasing wheat production through increased acreage and closing yield gaps with the help of policy incentives such as price guarantees and subsidized agricultural inputs. Demand-side management and de-risking alternative sourcing can also help to alleviate short-term food insecurity.
Unfortunately, given the fluctuating worldwide investment in agricultural research, none of the important steps outlined above can be guaranteed. However, through considerable advances in agricultural output, the world has limited the severity of food security crises, thanks to decades of agricultural research.
In the face of growing disease pressures and climate problems, we have been working ceaselessly to preserve wheat yields worldwide. The benefit-to-cost ratio for wheat enhancement research is predicted to be between 72:1 and 102:1. However, research funding will increase in response to food crises. This will expose the transnational hazards of our interconnected food systems.