2022 food crises

Increase in food prices and shortages around the world
Fertilizer prices 1992–2022. The 2007–2008 world food crisis happened when fertilizer prices spiked.
  DAP
  Potassium chloride
  Phosphorite
  Triple Superphosphate
  Urea
  Oils
  Cereals
  Dairy
  Meat
  Sugar
Commodity Prices
  Soybean
  Wheat
  Corn
  Copper

2022 saw a rapid increase in food prices and shortages of food supplies around the world. The compounding crises in distinct parts of the world were caused by compounding geopolitical and economic crisis. The crises followed food security and economic crises during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Food and Agriculture Organization, as well as other observers of the food commodities markets, warned of a collapse in food supply and price increases.[1][2][3][4][5] Much of the concern is related to supply shortages of key commodity crops, such as wheat, corn, and oil seeds, which could cause price increases.[3] The invasion also led to fuel and associated fertilizer price increases, causing further food shortfalls and price increases.[5]

Even before the invasion, food prices were already at record highs. As of February 2022, year-over-year food prices were up 20%, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.[6] The war further increased year-over-year prices another 40% in March.[7] The compounding issues, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as climate-related crop failures, are expected to reverse global trends in reducing hunger and malnutrition.[8]

Some regions, such as East Africa and Madagascar, were already experiencing drought and famine due to agricultural system failures and climate change,[9][10] and the price increases are expected to make the situation worse.[5][7] Even Global North countries that usually have secure food supplies, such as the UK and US, are beginning to experience the direct impacts of cost inflation due to food insecurity.[11] Some analysts described the price increases as the worst since the 2007–2008 world food price crisis.[7] Though initial international responses to the food crisis suggested that some suppliers or harvests may alleviate global shortages and price increases (e.g. a proposed influx of grain from India), as of June 2022 no international efforts have been effective at alleviating prices.[12]

Overview

The COVID-19 pandemic significantly disrupted food supply chains around the world, disrupting distribution channels at the consumption and distribution stages of the food industry. A rise in fuel and transport prices further increased the complexity of distribution as food competed with other goods.

At the same time, significant floods and heatwaves in 2021 destroyed key crops in the Americas and Europe.[13]

Observations by region

2022 Peruvian protests due to increased food and fuel prices
2022 Ecuadorian protests against the economic policies of Ecuadorian president Guillermo Lasso, triggered by increasing fuel and food prices

The price rises affected parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America particularly severely with Iran,[14] Sri Lanka,[15] Sudan,[16] and Iraq[17] seeing protests and food riots. Other countries that have seen food riots or are facing related unrest are Albania,[18] Kenya,[19] Indonesia,[20] Peru,[21] Ecuador,[22] Panama,[23] Argentina,[24] Tunisia and Lebanon.[25]

Africa and MENA

Price increases for certain staples, such as wheat, were expected to most severely affect countries like Egypt, Turkey, and Somalia in MENA and East Africa, which rely heavily on wheat imports from Ukraine and Russia.[7] This is expected to further hurt prices in regional food markets, such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and South Sudan.[7]

The changes in the food market caused by the invasion of Ukraine further exacerbated existing drought problems in the already vulnerable Horn of Africa.[26] In February, the World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF had already projected nutrition and hunger gaps for thirteen million people in East Africa.[27] By March, the UN had expanded that number to 20 million people.[28]

Iran

Protests in Iran broke out in early May after an increase in wheat prices.[29]

West Africa

Oxfam, ALIMA and Save the Children warned that the food crises in West Africa could affect 27 million people, especially in Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Mali, and Nigeria.[30]

During a visit in Nigeria, the Secretary-General of the United Nations voiced concerns over the war exacerbating the crises of food, energy, and economies in Africa as a whole.[31]

On 2 June 2022, Chad declared a national food emergency.[32]

Yemen

The main cause of the famine in Yemen is the ongoing Yemeni Civil War. Aid often cannot effectively reach the population because of the blockade of Yemen by Saudi Arabia which started in 2015.[33][34] 17.4 million do not have enough food and malnutrition levels in Yemen are among the highest in the world.[35]

Asia

Bangladesh

International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasted Consumer Price Index (CPI) in Bangladesh to rise to 5.9% by the year 2022. The price of cooking oil, sugar, eggs and chickpeas increased sharply, which contributed a great deal to the inflation. According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, general inflation climbed to 6.17% by February 2022. Government officials link local prices to the global market situation and necessary stepstaken to stabilize price hikes due to these conditions. Experts see government failure behind the price hikes, with Russia's invasion of Ukraine pressuring inflationary tendencies further. Before the invasion of Ukraine, 95% of the cooking oil in Bangladesh was imported from overseas. The price of cooking oil per barrel was $700 then, it went up to $1,940 prior to the invasion. The price of liquified petroleum gas (LPG) also increased 12% by March.[36][37]

Afghanistan

Following the Taliban takeover, western nations suspended humanitarian aid and the World Bank and IMF also halted payments to Afghanistan.[38][39] The Biden administration froze about $9 billion in assets belonging to the Afghan central bank, blocking the Taliban from accessing billions of dollars held in US bank accounts.[40] In October 2021, the UN stated that more than half of Afghanistan's 39 million people faced an acute food shortage.[41]

The price increases connected to Russia's invasion of Ukraine may worsen the economic crises in Afghanistan that followed the US withdrawal.[42] According to the UN, $4.4bn to pay for increased food costs,[43] with human rights experts calling on the US to unblock assets of the Afghan's central bank to ease humanitarian crisis.[44]

India

Six out of every 10 Indians are dependent on state-delivered subsidised food. Though early reporting and government policy after the price increases following the war in Ukraine for wheat suggested India was well positioned to export more wheat, by end of April a heatwave that is projected to decrease harvests, increasing local prices, and fertilizer price increases projected a shortfall rather than an export-friendly market.[45] The decrease in harvests was largely driven by the 2022 Indian heat wave which is expected to severely reduce wheat harvest, killing the plants during the final weeks where they are usually growing.[46]

On 13 May, India, the world's second largest producer of wheat,[47] prohibited wheat exports.[48] IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva urged India to reconsider its ban on wheat exports.[49]

Indonesia

Extreme price increases for cooking oil sparked student protests and other civil unrest. The national government of Indonesia banned export of palm oil.[50] As Indonesia is the largest producer of palm oil, and with a harvest decline in the second largest producer and neighbor Malaysia, the ban has caused severe global supply chain disruptions and further exacerbated the price increases caused by the loss of Russian and Ukrainian oil exports and failures of soy crops in South America.[50] Following protests by palm farmers, the ban was reversed in late May after being in effect for around three weeks.[51]

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka was much more harshly affected by the food crisis as it was already facing mass man-made crop failures due to a total ban on chemical fertilizer by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa resulting in rice production in Sri Lanka falling by 40-50% while other crops also suffered large losses with some even reaching 70% loss even before it was affected by the effects of the Russian crisis. The 2022 Sri Lankan protests escalated in part due to food shortages and post-COVID-19 pandemic inflation. By the time government reversed the ban on chemical fertilizer the Russian invasion of Ukraine had caused fertilizer prices to rise making it unaffordable for Sri Lanka which had defaulted on its loans after nearly running out of forex reserves.[52] On 9 May, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa resigned from his position after protests on the country's economic crisis turned violent.[53][54][55]

Europe

Europe's energy crisis and the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine caused significant price increases for European fertilizer and food industries.[56][57] According to Julia Meehan, the head of fertilizers for the commodity price firm ICIS, "We are seeing record prices for every fertilizer type, which are all way above the previous highs in 2008. It's very, very serious. People don't realize that 50% of the world's food relies on fertilizers."[58]

In 2022, Europe's driest summer in 500 years had a negative impact on European agricultural production.[59][60][61]

North America

North America was already experiencing significant shortfalls and supply chain issues connected to the 2020–22 North American drought and the 2021–2022 global supply chain crisis.[7] The supply chain crisis was also one factor in infant formula shortages in the US.

Haiti

Along with protests and civil unrest against the government of Haiti in response to rising energy prices and the rising cost of living, as well as armed gang violence and an outbreak of cholera, Haiti is experiencing widespread acute hunger. On 14 October 2022, the WFP reported that a record 4.7 million people (almost half of the country's population) are currently facing acute hunger in Haiti;[62][63] using the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) scale, the WFP classified 19,000 of those people as belonging to the fifth and highest level on the scale, the "Catastrophe" phase (IPC 5).[62][63]

South America

Chile

The 2022 food crises have added to the mounting inflation in Chile has experienced since 2020. Measured by the change in the Índice de Precios al Consumidor, the (IPC) in March 2022 relative to March 2021 indicated an inflation rate of 1.9%, the highest known since October 1993.[64] Bread and meat prices increased as well as those of food in general.[64] Cooking oil prices have risen, with a particular brand at a Santiago supermarket experiencing a 90% price increase from April 2021 to April 2022.[65]

The inflation in food prices is thought to be behind an increasing number of supermarket credit cards issued in 2022 as well as increasing rates of supermarket credit card debt default.[65] In April 2022, President Gabriel Boric announced a $3.7 billion economic recovery plan that included an increase in the minimum wage to help people deal with rising prices.[66] Supermarkets belonging to Cencosud begun rationing cooking oil, rice and flour in late April.[67]

Causes

Energy crisis

Natural gas prices in Europe and United States
  National Balancing Point NBP (UK) natural gas prices
  Europe TTF natural gas prices
  United States Henry Hub natural gas prices

Natural gas is a major feedstock for the production of ammonia, via the Haber process, for use in fertilizer production.[68] The development of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer has significantly supported global population growth — it has been estimated that almost half the people on the Earth are currently fed as a result of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer use.[69]

Since 2021, the 2021–2022 global energy crisis has spread to the fertilizer and food industries.[70][71][72][73] According to Julia Meehan, the head of fertilizers for the commodity price agency ICIS, "We are seeing record prices for every fertiliser type, which are all way above the previous highs in 2008. It's very, very serious. People don't realise that 50% of the world's food relies on fertilisers."[74] The impact of agricultural input costs, including fertilizer and fuels, on food prices has been shown to be larger than the effect of the curtailment of food exports from Russia and Ukraine.[75]

Russian invasion of Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with the President of the African Union, Macky Sall, to discuss grain deliveries from Russia and Ukraine to Africa, 3 June 2022
Member of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine carrying an unexploded Russian bomb in an agricultural field in southeastern Ukraine, 1 July 2022. The Russian invasion of Ukraine disrupted all parts of the grain agriculture and grain trade from Ukraine, further stressing a global supply chain that had already been seeing major price increases.

From 2 Feb to 1 April, Russia banned the export of ammonium nitrate (AN) to guarantee supplies for domestic farmers following the spike in global fertilizer prices, which were impacted by rising costs for natural gas.[76][77] This conflict will affect most of the economies, however, the most affected economies are in Europe and Africa. It is advisable for these economies to explore and find alternative food supply chain partners and solutions in North America, South America, the Middle East, Australasia, and some regions of Asia and Africa that have been less affected by this conflict.[77]

A burning wheat field near Andriivka, Kharkiv Oblast after Russian shelling on 5 July 2022

Wheat prices surged to their highest prices since 2008 in response to the 2022 attacks.[78] Ukraine accounted for 10% of global wheat exports.[79] At the time of the invasion, Ukraine was the fourth-largest exporter of corn and wheat, and the world's largest exporter of sunflower oil, with Russia and Ukraine together responsible for 27% of the world's wheat exports and 53% of the world's sunflowers and seeds.[80] The head of the World Food Programme, David Beasley, warned in March that the war in Ukraine could take the global food crisis to "levels beyond anything we've seen before".[81]

A potential disruption to global wheat supplies could exacerbate the ongoing hunger crisis in Yemen,[82] Afghanistan[83][84] and East Africa.[85] The American Bakers Association president warned that the price of anything made with grain would begin rising as all the grain markets are interrelated. The chief agricultural economist for Wells Fargo stated that Ukraine will likely be severely limited in their ability to plant crops in spring 2022 and lose an agricultural year, while an embargo on Russian crops would create more inflation of food prices. Recovering crop production capabilities may take years even after fighting has stopped.[86]

Surging wheat prices resulting from the conflict have strained African countries such as Egypt, which are highly dependent upon Russian and Ukrainian wheat exports, and have provoked fears of social unrest.[87] At least 25 African countries import a third of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine, and 15 of them import more than half from those two countries.[88] On 24 February, the Chinese government announced that it would drop all restrictions on Russian wheat as part of an agreement that had been reached earlier in February;[89] the South China Morning Post called this a potential "lifeline" for the Russian economy.[90]

Effects of climate change

Multiple heat, flooding, and drought events between 2020 and 2022 significantly hurt global food supplies and reserves. These weather events, which have been connected with climate change, made the food system less resilient to shocks like the war in Ukraine. Global reserves of wheat were extremely low at the beginning of 2022 because of these weather events.[91] During the year 2022 many similar events connected to climate change continue to severely reduce agriculture production in the world.[92]

This section is an excerpt from Effects of climate change on agriculture.[edit]
Four political leaders sit on a stage facing an audience. They are answering questions at a food security and climate change session.
U.S. and African leaders meet at a Leaders Summit for Food Security and Climate change at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., on August 4, 2014.
Maize farming in Uganda is made more difficult due to heat waves and droughts worsened by climate change in Uganda.

The effects of climate change on agriculture can result in lower crop yields and nutritional quality due to drought, heat waves and flooding as well as increases in pests and plant diseases. The effects are unevenly distributed across the world and are caused by changes in temperature, precipitation and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels due to global climate change.[93] In 2019, millions were already suffering from food insecurity due to climate change. Further, the predicted decline in global crop production is 2% - 6% with each decade.[94] In 2019 it was predicted that food prices would rise by 80% by 2050. This will likely lead to increased food insecurity, disproportionally affecting poorer communities.[95][96] A 2021 study estimated that the severity of heatwave and drought impacts on crop production tripled over the last 50 years in Europe – from losses of 2.2% during 1964–1990 to losses of 7.3% in 1991–2015.[97][98]

Direct impacts from changing weather patterns are caused by rising temperatures, heat waves and changes in rainfall (including droughts and floods). Increased atmospheric CO2 levels has led to higher crop yields (due to CO2 fertilization) but has also resulted in reduced nutritional value of crops (lower levels of micronutrients). Climate driven changes in pests, plant diseases and weeds can also result in lower crop yields and nutritional value. Losses of agricultural land due to sea level rise is an indirect result of climate change. However, more arable land may become available as frozen land thaws, though melting glaciers could result in less irrigation water being available. Other impacts include erosion and changes in soil fertility and the length of growing seasons. Negative impacts on food safety and losses caused by fungi, leading to mycotoxins, and bacteria, like Salmonella, increase with as the climate warms; additional financial burdens result. Water scarcity – including disturbances of terrestrial precipitation, evaporation and soil moisture – caused or worsened by climate change can have substantial negative impacts on agriculture.[99][100]

A range of measures for climate change adaptation may reduce the risk of negative climate change impacts on agriculture. Those measures include changes in management practices, agricultural innovation, institutional changes, and climate-smart agriculture.[93]: 513 [101] To create a sustainable food system, these measures are considered as essential as changes needed to reduce global warming in general.[102][103]

Drought in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)

Climate change in Iraq is leading to increasing water scarcity which will likely have serious implications for the country for years to come.[104] Additionally, Iraq's water security is based on the declining Tigris–Euphrates river system.[105]

East African drought

A drought in East Africa began in 2021 and further intensified in 2022, precipitated in part by the oncoming La Niña in 2022.[26][106] Three rainy seasons failed in the Horn of Africa, destroying crops and killing large herds of livestock.[26] In Somalia 4 rainy seasons failed and the fifth is also not seems good, Kenya and Sudan were also strongly affected.[92] The UN identified 20 million people at risk of famine.[26] Both wildlife and livestock have been killed by the drought.[26] The region is especially vulnerable because an extreme wet season caused the 2019–2021 locust infestation, which destroyed large regions of crops.[26]

By early October 2021, nearly a year after the Tigray War started, Mark Lowcock, who led OCHA during part of the Tigray War, stated that the Ethiopian federal government was deliberately starving Tigray, "running a sophisticated campaign to stop aid getting in" and that there was "not just an attempt to starve six million people but an attempt to cover up what's going on."[107]

82 million East Africans and 42 million West Africans faced acute food insecurity in 2021.[108]

By the end of 2022, more than 8 million Somalis were in need of food assistance – roughly half of Somalia's population.[109][110]

Madagascar drought

In mid-2021, a severe drought in southern Madagascar caused hundreds of thousands of people to suffer from food insecurity.[111][112] In October 2022, UNICEF contributed with $23 millions for children suffering from the famine,[113] which continued in the south, with a third of the population suffering from the disaster, according to researchers cited by the Financial Times.[114]

North American heatwave and drought

Drought significally reduced harvests in North America including the USA that produce a quarter of the world grains. The years 2000-2021 was the driest in centuries in North America. The production of crops in the Midwest declined by 20% in this period.[92]

European extreme weather

Droughts in Spain and Portugal during early 2022 led to 60-80% loss predictions for crops in some areas.[115] The huge amount of precipitation in March and early April 2022 in mainland Spain provided relief but did not fully revert the ongoing meteorological drought.[116] Fruit crops in most of Europe were damaged by a cold wave that caused freezing rain, frost, and snow during early budding, after a period of unseasonably early warm weather.[117]

Additional drought in Italy, has reduced the flow of fresh water near the Po river, which is responsible for 40% of crop production. Salt water intrusion is expected to greatly reduce the viability of crop production in areas near the delta.[118]

South Asian heat wave

During the 2022 food crises, India began taking steps to export more rice and wheat, in part to fill the gaps created by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.[119] However, the heatwave caused increasing local prices and lower supply, issues also exacerbated by the war increasing fertilizer prices.[120] The heat wave occurred mostly during the final weeks of the wheat growing season, killing the plants shortly before harvest.[121][122]

The heatwave strongly impacted agriculture in India. At the same time early rainfall in India was 71% lower than the norm. In Punjab, the main crop producer in India, 15% of the harvest was lost and in some regions even 30%.[123] The heatwave caused a reverse in policy by Indian government, from trying to import to address the crises, to halting exports.[124]

The heatwave has also severely impacted peach and apple harvests in Balochistan.[125]

Southern Cone heat wave

A heatwave that deeply affected Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Southern Brazil caused yield declines for corn, soy, and other key grains, resulting in significant global commodity price increases.[126][127][128][129] The heatwave further exacerbated an already dry season in much of the region.[129] Drought made 28% of the agricultural territory of Brazil "no longer climatically optimal"[92]

Australian floods

A severe flood in New South Wales during February 2022 caused the complete destruction of soy and rice crops and 36% of macadamia nut production.[130] Animal herds and farming infrastructure were also severely damaged by the flooding, which was the third major natural disaster to agriculture communities in the region.[131]

Supply chain failures

In a May 2022 editorial for the Guardian, environmental George Monbiot described part of the collapse of food supply, a problem of concentration of supply in a handful of supply chains through the "Global Standard Diet" making the food system vulnerable to critical failures.[132] He compared the food system failures to the 2008 banking crises, in terms of similar structural problems of concentration of economic power.[132]

In China, rolling lockdowns as part of a zero-COVID policy significantly reduced key agricultural inputs for important grain crops.[133] Before that, China already maintaining its food stockpiles at a "historically high level" in 2021, because of trade wars; the deal and negotiation with U.S. and Australia could also be prodding China to buy food reserves.[134]

Ethanol for fuel

Corn vs Ethanol production in the United States
  Total corn production (bushels) (left)
  Corn used for Ethanol fuel (bushels) (left)
  Percent of corn used for Ethanol (right)

Ethanol fuel makes up about 10% of motor vehicle gasoline produced and consumed in 2021, and around 40% of corn grown is used for ethanol fuel in the United States each year. Because it is 33% less efficient than petroleum gasoline miles driven from ethanol is less than 10%.[135][136][137]

Responses

China

By the first half of the agricultural year 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, China acquired 50% of the world supply of wheat, 60% of rice, and 69% of corn.[138] China has maintained its food stockpiles at a "historically high level", contributing to higher global food prices.[139][140] Bloomberg columnist Adam Minter wrote that "For China, such stockpiles are necessary to ensure it won't be at the mercy of major food exporters such as the U.S."[139]

United States

Food Price Index United States

The Biden administration responded to the growing shortages in April by trying to increase US farm production. The US policy community was worried about China or other countries filling the food gap. Obstruction in the US Congress prevented new funding and resources for the crises.[91] A group of 160 advocacy groups challenged funding cuts by the Biden administration and Congress to USDA programs.[141]

On 18 May 2022, the US announced $215 million in development assistance to mitigate the crises.[142] This was in addition to $320 million for the Horn of Africa.[142]

Germany

Germany is working on a proposal to phase out the use of biofuels produced from food crops by 2030.[143] Up to 40% of corn produced in the US is used to make ethanol,[144] and worldwide 10% of all grain is turned into biofuel.[145] A 50% reduction in grain used for biofuels in the US and Europe would replace all of Ukraine's grain exports.[146]

Russia

Signing ceremony of the Black Sea Grain Initiative in Istanbul

On 30 June 2022, Russia withdrew its troops from Snake Island in a so called "goodwill gesture" to not obstruct U.N. attempts to open a humanitarian corridor allowing grains to be shipped from Ukraine. On 16 July, major news outlets reported that Kyiv is definitely a step closer to being able to export grain through its Black Sea ports after talks with Russia, facilitated by Turkey, and the United Nations.[147] Russia was accused of blocking crucial shipments of grains from Ukrainian ports but claims its exports are impacted by economic sanctions. On 23 July, Russia shelled the port of Odesa which had recently been unlocked.[148][149]

The first shipment since the grain agreement was set off for Lebanon, where the Sierra Leone-flagged ship Razoni carried the cargo of corn.[150] As of August 20, the total number of vessels leaving Ukraine in accordance with the agreement reached 27.[151]

On 14 September 2022, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reiterated his concerns over a constrained fertilizer supply from Russia due to the 2022 Russian invasion of the Ukraine and subsequent economic sanctions. According to the source, UN diplomats held discussions to re-open the Togliatti-Odessa pipeline carrying ammonia. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had offered such a move in exchange for the release of prisoners of war held by Russia. But TASS news agency quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who dismissed such a idea, as saying “are people and ammonia the same thing?”.[152]

On 29 October 2022, Russia suspends participation in grain initiative.[153] However, vessel traffic will resume on November 3.[154]

International organizations

The World Bank announced a new $12 billion fund to address the food crises.[155][156]

In May, the United Nations called for Russia to facilitate the reopening of Ukrainian grain ports to mitigate the global food crises.[157]

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