Food security

Russia’s war against Ukraine is a real threat to global food security.

  • Russia’s war on Ukraine is creating a global food crisis that could bring serious political and economic consequences.
  • Ukraine has become one of the biggest suppliers of foods such as sunflower oil, wheat and corn for the low-income countries worldwide as well as for the international development organizations.
  • Agricultural and food sector represents almost 10% of its GDP of Ukraine. Last year, we exported food products totaling almost $28 billion to the world, including 7 billion euros ($7.4 billion) to the EU.
  • According to the USDA data, Ukraine’s exports comprise more than 10% of all wheat, 14% of all corn and 47% of all sunflower oil in the world.
  • On average, 50 million tons of agricultural products were exported from Ukraine annually. In record years, this figure reached even 65 million tons. Today it is not possible to find alternative suppliers and replace such volumes of agricultural products from Ukraine. Experts claim it is literally impossible even within the next 3-5 years.
  • Experts emphasize that more than 400 million people in the world depend on grain supplies from Ukraine. The population of most of these countries traditionally suffers from food shortages and even hunger.

Dependence of countries on Ukrainian supplies (the share of Ukrainian main commodities in the country’s total imports, according to ITC, 2020, 2021):

  • Wheat: Egypt — 26%; Indonesia — 27%, Turkey — 18%, Pakistan — 46%, Morocco — 15%, Bangladesh -23%, Libya — 44%, Tunisia — 42%, Ethiopia — 26%, Lebanon — 80%, Yemen — 22%, Israel — 20%.
  • Corn: EU27 — 32%, China — 55%, Egypt — 26%, Turkey — 32%.
  • Sunflower oil: EU27 — 62%, China — 59%, India — 75%, Turkey — 5%, Iraq — 74%.
  • The war in Ukraine poses a threat to global food security, which is particularly acute today in some of the MENA region countries (Egypt, Yemen, Lebanon, Israel, Libya, Lebanon, Tunisia, Morocco, Iraq, Saudi Arabia) and Asian countries (Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan), which are the main buyers of wheat and corn on the world markets).
  • Russia’s attack has changed the world’s food supply chains. Products that Ukraine will not be able deliver to the world market provoke a chain reaction: developed countries are increasing their stocks, many countries are limiting trade in the background of uncertainty. As a result, prices are rising even more and risk of a hunger in poorer countries is rising.
  • The war has already affected about 25% of the world cereal trade and has caused an increase in world prices, food inflation and reduced access to food in the countries that import food from Ukraine. In particular, those are wheat and sunflower oil.
  • The FAO Cereal Price Index averaged 173.4 points in May, up 3.7 points (2.2 percent) from April and as much as 39.7 points (+29.7%) above its May 2021 value.  International wheat prices rose for a fourth consecutive month, up 5.6% in May, to average +56.2% increase compared to last year value.
  • According to the World Bank commodity markets outlook, many foods are set to see steep rises in their costs. The UN food prices index already shows they are at their highest since records began 60 years ago.
  • According to the World Bank reports: more and more countries are introducing or announcing measures to reduce or ban wheat exports (more than 53 restrictive measures were introduced).
  • Due to the war Ukraine has lost about 20% of sown area this year (territory is occupied or under hostilities). About 13.5 mln hectares were used for spring sowing campaign (in 2021 – 16.9 mln hectares). For winter grain 7.6 mln hectares were used in fall 2021.

Ukraine and Ukrainian farmers are ready to fulfill their obligations in supplying grain and other agriculture products to the world market as soon as our seaports are unblocked and free to navigate.

  • Spring sowing campaign in Ukraine is almost finished (there are a few week left for buckwheat sowing). The farmers managed to sow 95% of the forecasted sown area.
  • However, in the absence of timely input of fertilizers, the yields will be significantly lower. Experts estimate 10-15% yields less than a year before.
  • Ukrainian forecasts of agricultural exports in 2022 will be much more modest compared to the previous year due to the russian aggression. In 2021, the Ukrainian exports of agri-food products accounted for $27.7 billion, whilst the forecast for this year is only $15.1 billion. This temporary breakdown is equivalent to the loss of 4% of wheat, 9% of corn and almost 30% of sunflower oil exports worldwide.
  • The 4 months of the current year Ukraine exported 12.59 million tons of food wheat and 5.95 million tons of fodder wheat (altogether 18.54 million tons of wheat).
  • According to market analysts, Ukrainian agrarians should expect the following harvest this year:
  • wheat — 18 million tons (in 2021 — 32.2 million tons);
  • corn — 25.7 million tons (in 2021 — 42.1 million tons);
  • barley — 5.2 million tons (in 2021 — 9.4 million tons);
  • other cereals — 1.4 million tons (in 2021 — 2.3 million tons).

This year’s total grain yield is expected to be approximately 50.4 million tons, compared to 86 million tons in 2021.

The crop of oil crops expected as follows:

  • sunflower — 10.6 million tons (in 2021 — 16.4 million tons);
  • soybean — 3.0 million tons (in 2021 — 3.5 million tons);
  • rapeseed — 2.7 million tons in 2021 — 2.9 million tons).

The total harvest of oil crops in 2022 is expected to reach almost 16.3 million tons, while in 2021 it was 22.8 million tons.

  • The Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine preliminarily forecasts the total gross harvest of cereals, legumes and oilseeds at about 60-65 million tons in 2022 (that is about 40% less than in 2021).

Logistics is the key issue for Ukrainian traders to export grain and oilseeds

  • Ukraine is willing to continue its exports according to its international obligations, as
  • Before war, Ukraine exported 5-6 million tons of agricultural products on monthly basis; 90% out of this volume were exported from seaports in the Black Sea and the Azov Sea.
  • Nowadays, the traditional logistics chains were broken. Ukraine has already adjusted new logistics routes to supply grain to the world market by trucks, railway and river transport.
  • In April using available infrastructure capabilities we managed to export about 1.2 million tons of grain and oilseed with increasing volumes up to about 1.8 million tons in May and expecting about 2 million tons of grain exports in June.
  • However, at this rate it would take years to export the current grain stockpile in addition to a new harvest arrival unless the military situation on the Black Sea rapidly improves.
  • The problem of blocked exports will be compounded by the arrival of a fresh harvest, the harvesting campaign of winter grain has already started in some Southern regions of Ukraine.
  • Grain exports from Ukraine have been suspended through the blockade of the ports by russian warships. Currently, russia is blocking around 40 commercial vessels loaded with agricultural commodities in the Black Sea (around 1 million tons of grain, corn and oilseeds).
  • Ukraine currently has three export Danube port terminals that are operating – Izmail (1.5 million tons per year), Reni (4 million tons per year) and Kiliya (0.4 million tons per year). Their capacity is very limited, compared with Odesa and Mykolaiv ports.
  • By Danube river ports we manage to export about 30% of current export volumes.
  • The focus now is to enable a large increase in rail and road shipments. Ukraine works closely with the European Commission and neighboring EU MSs to rearrange supply chains and establish alternative routes for agricultural products (wheat, corn, soybean, rapeseed, barley, sunflower, sunflower oil, meal (shrot), pomace).

The maximum capacity through these routes could be:

  • by road transport — 200 thousand tons per month,
  • railway — 1.5 million tons per month,
  • maritime transport (Danube, Izmail and Kiliya rivers) — 600 thousand tons per month.
  • Border countries responded to the problem of grain exports from Ukraine to third countries and either has significantly simplified the procedures for processing cargo transportation or are actively working on this, but as for now some Ukraine’s products still face a myriad of phytosanitary measures and quotas for land transport that complicate their ability to pass through various member states to their final destination.
  • Local dry cargo players take stock of the hurdles they face in getting the country’s grain to market this year. Unfortunately, the alternative export routs for the main commodities cannot replace the traditional black seaports logistics and make the products even more expensive for the buyers.
  • Ukraine, the EU, the US, Canada, and the UK are cooperating to avoid a global food crisis triggered by Russian aggression and blockade.
  • The European Union presented action plan «Solidarity Lanes» designed to facilitate land exports of Ukraine’s stocks of food products. The European Commission will implement a strategy that would address technical and bureaucratic initiatives to speed up the shipping of vegetable oils, corn and wheat. They are considering alternative land routes via neighboring countries besides the removing some trade barriers with Kyiv and increasing throughput at EU boarder’s checkpoints.
  • According to this action plan, 20 million tons of grain will be transported from Ukraine via EU infrastructure in less than three months under this project.
  • On June 13, 2022, the EU introduced the Grain Ways platform “Grainlane” (, which offers the first features of a grain trading platform, accelerating the process of aligning opportunities between supply and demand. If the Grainlane is successful, more features might be added, like requirements for border crossings or a demand database for short-term logistics.  Additionally, companies Transporeon and Railneteurope have finished creating an e-platform/application to reflect the transportation of agricultural products from one location to another for the EUC’s order.
  • Ukraine has accumulated about 20 million tons of grain reserves from the previous year’s yield.
  • Due to the armed aggression of the Russian Federation, the temporary occupation of territories and the blocking of seaports, by the end of October 2022, Ukraine may experience a storage capacity shortage of 10-15 million tons. It is crucial to engage partners for the construction of temporary grain elevators along the western borders of Ukraine.

Russia is committing food terrorism by purposefully destroying our agricultural infrastructure and stealing Ukrainian grain and agricultural machinery.

  • The missile strikes of Russian troops damaged and destroyed many farms, stocks of food and seeds, silos, warehouses, oil depots, agriculture machinery and equipment.
  • Since the beginning of the war, the Russian Army has already destroyed the six largest elevators in Ukraine. On June 4th, Russia launched another missile strike on Mykolaiv, which caused a major damage at the second-largest grain storage terminal in Ukraine.
  • There are credible reports of looting Ukrainian grain by Russian military from the temporarily occupied territories in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. A lot of other testimonies and evidence confirm that Russian occupiers have seized already about 500,000 tons of grain crops, which is almost a third of the stocks left there for sowing and domestic consumption needs.
  • According to satellite images russian-flagged ships carrying stolen Ukrainian grain to Syria. Russian occupiers have tightened their grip over areas of southern Ukraine’s rich agricultural districts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.
  • The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has previously warned consumer countries that grain consignments sold by Russia might contain partially or in full stolen grain seized as a result of looting by Russian troops. Numerous testimonies from Ukrainian farmers and documented evidence serve as proof of Russia’s plunder of Ukrainian grain.
  • Kremlin is using hunger as a tactic to obliterate Ukrainian identity nearly 90 years after the Holodomor. We demand that russia end grain theft, open Ukrainian ports, restore freedom of navigation, and allow commerce ships to sail through in order to prevent a humanitarian calamity and a global food crisis.
  • The illegal export of Ukrainian grain is another example of russia’s destructive acts, which, in particular, contravene the fundamental principles of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) – achieving food security for all and overcoming hunger. The aggressor state’s policy puts into doubt the relevance of its participation in FAO and other international organizations.
  • There is another widespread problem of soil contamination with unexploded ordnance, improvised explosive devices and spilled fuel. However, the most significant issue is certainly land mines. According to the recent preliminary estimates, about 13% of Ukrainian territory has been contaminated with mines and ERW (explosive remnants of the war) by russians (80,000 square km). We call on foreign assistance to deal with this urgent issue.
  • New EU Commission’s action plan «Solidarity Lanes» must counterbalance Russia’s deliberate destruction of Ukraine’s agriculture by expanding export channels and repel Moscow’s efforts to portray itself as a humanitarian actor that is feeding the world in a worsening food crisis.
  • Russia might seek to turn the situation further to its own advantage when it comes to food. Not only could Moscow steal Ukraine’s share of the global market for commodities like corn and wheat, but also it will attempt to whitewash its image as a charitable provider to poor countries, just as it blockades Ukraine’s own supplies.
  • The Governor of the Bank of England has warned of “apocalyptic” global food price rises and said he is «helpless» in the face of surging inflation as the economy is battered by the war in Ukraine.
  • In response for russian foreign minister’s address to the African Union, to demand from the West the lifting of sanctions, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba urged the international community to reject the Kremlin’s «food blackmail» namely russian call for lifting or reducing reduce sanction pressure against russia in exchange for the opening of commercial routes through the Black Sea.
  • The russian foreign ministry has also manipulated the publication of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to deny Russia’s contribution to the world food crisis. Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Oleg Nikolenko comments. FAO publication in English and Arabic.

What can be done?

Any attempt to divert our attention to the issues that are implications of russia’s ongoing violations, any attempt to equate them with the root cause would only help Moscow to further use food exports as a weapon. Ukraine, in its turn, does its best to secure the country’s export potential to the largest extent possible to ensure those depending on our export will not suffer from hunger. There are several options to this end.

We call on the international community to condemn russia’s actions, to demand withdrawal of its troops from Ukraine and the end to the blockades of the Ukrainian ports, to strengthen economic sanctions in order to stop armed aggression against Ukraine and to prevent further humanitarian catastrophe and worsening of world hunger.

Regarding the actual issue of grain looting in Ukraine, we emphasize that the Ukrainian side raises this issue constantly at international institutions and during bilateral and multilateral discussions with foreign partners at all levels.

We warn consumer countries not to buy stolen Ukrainian grain. Consignments exported by russia could contain stolen grain obtained as a result of russian occupation authorities’ plundering. We will monitor every illegal shipment of grain being exported from Ukraine. Any country that knowingly purchases stolen grain is considered to be complicit in the crime.

We have also discussed with WFP the possibility of the purchase of available surplus grain in Ukraine, in order to provide food for Africa and the Middle East, and thus prevent global hunger in these in regions, though the problem of the blocked Ukrainian seaports is still there to be solved.

Plans are now being discussed between Ukraine and EU ministers to build a brand-new railway connecting Ukraine to the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda. This is a part of strategic planning in order to use railway infrastructure in full capacity towards west direction, but it would take a year or more to complete some EU officials warn.

We would also expect a positive decision of the Polish side to establish a facilitated cargo transportation procedure by road in case of “one sender — one recipient”.

Currently, we discuss with our partners the ways to establish an international mission – humanitarian corridor – under the auspices of the United Nations, which will take over the functioning of maritime routes for the export of Ukrainian agricultural goods. However, we cannot rule out Russia’s plans to use such humanitarian corridor to attack Odesa and southern Ukraine. That is why effective security guarantees are needed to restore navigation. Such guarantees should be provided by supplying Ukraine with appropriate weapons to protect the coastline from threats from the sea and by involving third countries navy to patrol the relevant part of the Black Sea.

We call on all interested partners, together with Ukraine, to focus our efforts on finding a balanced solution that will lift the Russian blockade of ports and at the same time provide clear security guarantees for the Ukrainian Black Sea coast and relevant humanitarian corridors.

Food price increases are having devastating effects on the poorest and most vulnerable. To inform and stabilize markets, it is critical that countries make clear statements now of future output increases in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Countries should make concerted efforts to increase the supply of energy and fertilizer, help farmers increase plantings and crop yields, and remove policies that block exports and imports, divert food to biofuel, or encourage unnecessary storage.