Theft, war damage, and more are complicating the Ukraine export crisis, further squeezing tight world grain supplies and fueling food inflation.
The world grain stocks problem starts this year in Ukraine.
“Can some of those stocks be taken by Russia and shipped back to Russia, and enter the world market through those means? Or how much of the stocks that we assume are remaining in the country might have been damaged because of the war, itself?” says USDA World Ag Outlook Board Chair Mark Jekanowski.
And even if stored or new grain can get out of the country by land, the volumes can’t come close to shipments out of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports that are blocked by Russia.
Meantime, India has banned its wheat exports.
“With this ban, does that mean no stock, no export, or does that mean some? And it certainly seems that it has been upfront saying they’re going to honor any letters of credit, they’re going to try to export to their neighbors like Bangladesh,” says former USDA Chief Economist Joe Glauber, now at the International Food Research Policy Institute.”
Glauber says those dependent on Ukraine can get wheat and other supplies, but the cost has gone up as much as 40 percent.
“North Africa, Middle East, Central Asia, all of those are seeing higher prices for wheat products. And it’s not lost on people that’s where the ‘Arab Spring’ was, the food riots.”
And Glauber says no one knows how long the war will last. Media reports say Russia’s already threatening to annex parts of Southern Ukraine.
Meantime the US, EU, and UN are stepping up humanitarian aid to stave off a food crisis that could see millions go hungry or starve this fall.