Like peace, food security has long been taken for granted in Europe.
The violence of the war on the borders of Europe has exploded along with the awareness that we have to worry about the supply of raw materials: energy and agriculture commodities.
So, food security has once again entered our political agenda and our concerns.
Public opinion has learned that the yellow of the Ukrainian flag stands for the significant production of cereals and that European countries (especially Germany and Italy) are largely dependent on Russian gas imports. Indeed, Russia and Ukraine together account for nearly one-third of global wheat exports, 19% of exported corn, and 80% of sunflower oil exports.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), world food commodity prices increased 20.7% in February 2022, compared February 2021, bringing them to an all-time high. The increase for grains was 14.8% above the level of a year ago. February saw increases for all major grains, largely reflecting renewed uncertainties in global supply due to the war in Ukraine. These increases are linked not only to production levels, but also to instability and supply issues in the energy, fertilizer and feed sectors.
All of these factors tend to compress the profit margins of food producers. Indeed, so far the increase in the cost of raw materials and energy has been absorbed only by producers.
The crisis unfolding before our eyes affects:
– the most vulnerable consumers and those with modest incomes in the European Union, but also the fragile populations of Mediterranean and African countries whose ability to cope with these price increases and ensure sufficient supply is limited; we have already seen how rising prices led to riots and political instability in southern Mediterranean countries in 2006/2007;
–farmers, whose rising prices of inputs are putting them in a very difficult situation that could lead to a drop in production and abandonment of the countryside, all this when the challenge for the European Union is to increase its food security and meet the demand of its traditional trading partners and neighbours, cushioning the shock of the halt in Ukrainian exports.
Therefore, the EU must take immediate action and engage without delay to ensure the EU’s short- and medium-term food security and contribute to that of our neighbors.