Ukraine's bread basket is emptying fast

As the war hits wheat supplies, Nick Shafer appeals to the US and China to release vital reserves for the Middle East and North Africa

The World Today
2 minute READ

Nick Shafer

Marshall Scholar on governance, development and public policy, Institute of Development Studies

From Cairo to Beirut, policymakers, bakers and people on the street face long queues, closed bakeries and empty ports. One commodity is on their minds: wheat.

Together, Ukraine and Russia produce more than a quarter of the global wheat supply and are the primary suppliers for cheap grain throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East. Securing nutrition and preventing hunger is a difficult challenge in an age when great powers politicize humanitarian aid, as they did with vaccine diplomacy during the Covid pandemic.

Yet, an urgency faces those with strategic wheat reserves and production capacity – especially China and the United States – to support multilateral mechanisms that avoid politicizing wheat aid at the cost of human lives. Disruptions in supply come at a time when wheat prices are at a two-year high after several years of drought in the Northern Hemisphere.

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