The Woolwich Observer

Let’s lift our heads and not lose sight of Russia’s global threat

- OWEN ROBERTS Food For Thought

In two weeks or so, Ukraine farmers would normally start planting their crops on what is described as some of the world’s most fertile soil.

Their harvests go on to global markets; Ukraine is the world’s fourth leading exporter of agricultur­al products and commoditie­s, particular­ly wheat, corn and barley, as well as sunflower seeds and oil. It’s popularly referred to as the breadbaske­t of Europe

But this year, the

Russian invasion of Ukraine means many Ukrainian fields could sit idle.

War-related shortages of fertilizer, fuel, machinery and seed – not to mention bombs landing in fields – mean a huge part of the global food supply will not even be planted, let alone harvested. Farmers are fighting for their lives.

That means even if this war was to end relatively quickly, the impact on global agricultur­e will be felt for years, and far from dormant Ukrainian soil. Include upheavals in transporta­tion caused by commercial shipping lanes connected to the Black Sea being closed, and the negative effect is staggering.

Inevitably, food prices will rise. Appreciabl­y less grain on the market will send those prices climbing even further.

And as prices rise, watch how food security once again comes to the fore. Even though lucrative exports are touted as being vital for a nation’s economy, its ability to feed its own people must come first. People will demand it, and expect a domestic-first policy to somehow have a calming effect on prices at the check-out counter.

Countries will respond with a brave face, putting forward new initiative­s to encourage homegrown production and more support for independen­ts. They’ll be vocal condemning the concentrat­ion of ownership, noting how corporate profits have risen in the face of the pandemic and pointing fingers at companies they think are taking advantage of peoples’ misery.

Other efforts will surface to try to help farmers be less dependent on off-the-farm work to make ends meet. The US is expecting 2022 to be a record year for farm income, just like it was last year. Yet nearly 90 per cent of US farmers derive most of their income from off-the-farm jobs.

This is not a clear path to food security.

Journalist­s will be called on to try to explain the complex web of internatio­nal trade, as well as what’s going on behind the lines. For example, Google Ukrainian agricultur­al journalist Iurri Mykhailov, who has been reporting for global farm

media from Kyiv. He was instrument­al in helping displace an undemocrat­ic agricultur­al journalist­s’ guild in Ukraine some 15 years ago. His reports will shed light on what’s going behind the scenes there, in agricultur­e.

And from Mykhailov and others, we’ll learn about things we didn’t know about before, like the connection between Ukraine and sunflowers. We’ll learn because we must. Facing down the barrel of a global Russian threat that could escalate much further, we need to lift our heads, look around and take ownership in global affairs like never before… because in modern times, there’s never before been anything like this.

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