The War on Wheat

By Samantha Bader, Co-President

As Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine continues to unfold, people in Canada are already beginning to notice the impact of the war Russia decided to start. Gas prices are rising to new heights, there’s an influx in refugees seeking shelter in Canada, and underneath it all, there looms a massive threat to the global food supply. 

Ukraine and Russia together account for 29% of the world’s wheat exports. The farming season in Ukraine normally begins in a couple of weeks, when farmers plant their crops in the early spring. Now, with Russian aggression making this almost impossible, it is unlikely that any sort of farming will occur in Ukraine anytime soon. Furthermore, as Russia becomes increasingly hostile towards the West, they are limiting their wheat shipments. Russia may also be sanctioned in a way that would ban countries from buying Russian wheat. This means that this year, and next, there will likely be a global shortage of wheat. 

Countries around the world are all too cognizant of the horrors this could lead to. Beyond the fact that this will drive up the price of wheat for everyday consumers, it also means that in poorer countries when wheat is a staple of many diets, millions of people could go hungry. Countries that are reliant on Ukraine for wheat imports include Lebanon (50% of their wheat), Libya (43%) , Yemen (22%) and Bangladesh (21%). Yemen especially is in a hugely difficult situation, as they are already undergoing a massive famine as war continues to rage there. 

PM Justin Trudeau spoke on this matter, saying, “The challenge right now of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, is having ripple effects around the world, not just in energy prices for Canadians and for people in Europe, but for people in the global South as well”.  The PM further made reference to the fact that the UN Global Food program will be impeded by this. 

As it becomes apparent that there is a gap that needs to be filled for wheat, US wheat futures rose to 14 year highs, as importers look to the States to help fill the void. Canada produces wheat as well, but with most farmers having already planted or purchased the seeds for this year’s crops, it is unlikely that Canada will be able to fill the gap in the short term. 

Wheat, along with many other foods, had already been increasingly expensive. The price for wheat increased 80% between April 2020 and December 2021, according to data from the IMF. This increase is on par with the increase of other commodities such as soybeans and corn, meaning that even potential replacements for wheat are getting too pricey for poorer nations. 

With a global shortage of wheat, millions, especially those in developing countries will go hungry. Furthermore, these shortages may lead to unrest in places where the cost of living and the availability of basic necessities is likely to change for the worse. It goes without saying, but it is clear that one man’s dictatorial and autocratic desires will cause a lot of needless suffering – both in Ukraine and elsewhere.

Photo by Tomasz Filipek on Unsplash


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