The war of bread

The war’s return to Europe has been one of the most scarring and barbaric events of the last few years, even due to a widespread common feeling that those episodes were destined to never occur again, at least not in our continent. But, as it usually goes, the expectations hardly ever match reality and this brutally brings us back to the hardship and the cruelty of armed conflicts.

While facing those historical events, it is still necessary to maintain clarity of mind and rationality - which does not actually imply a lack of humanity -, which are essential in order to analyze and face the challenges that wars put in front of us. Ukraine’s invasion can be studied following three main interpretations: the strategic-military one, the humanitarian one and, at last, the economical one.

These three dimensions are strongly linked to one another and are all equally important, stressing different aspects of the conflict and issues that are linked to it and become a relevant variable. In this case, the aim is to analyze an aspect that is gaining an ever growing importance in the conflict: the economic dimension.

The implementation of economic sanctions is actually progressively, but more rapidly than expected, isolating Russia. A considerable effort to join the operation has been made, even by private actors, like it has never been seen before, which is leading to the country’s default[1]. But the economic implication might not be direct, exploding on a medium-long term, like the issue concerning the supplies of wheat, barley, corn, apart from vegetable oil from Russia and Ukraine.

The two nations’ efforts in the farming industry have actually exponentially grown in the last few years. In order to clarify the dimension of the phenomenon, it is necessary to consider how Russia currently proves to be the first wheat’s exporter globally, about 35 million tonnes every year; whereas Ukraine is currently the third exporter, surpassing the United States, as the International Grain Council reports[2].

Moreover, there are other two important statistics about corn’s exportation, in which the two nations’ aggregated figures correspond to about a fifth of the whole global export and the sunflower oil one, that reaches the record figure of 80% [3]. To this regard, the start of the conflict that turned the Country into a battlefield will have serious repercussions, to which the problem of the decline of the economic relationship with Russia itself had to be added.

Since the beginning of the war, an increase of about 38% in wheat prices has been registered, followed by an increase of 17% for corn and 6% for soy, percentages that might grow even further during the next weeks and months[4] Therefore, it is clear that the situation is destined to have negative and critical effects in several contexts, which led FAO itself to try monitoring the situation in order to avoid the occurrence of extremely severe scenarios[5].

The first concern is actually the supply of countries that are considered to be structurally more fragile, that developed a growing dependency on wheat’s exportations from Ukraine and Russia. Egypt represents a very interesting case among them, one of the most populous countries in the Arabic world, whose wheat requirement has been mainly met thanks to Russian supplies (two third of the whole importations), but also Morocco and Tunisia are facing a potentially catastrophic situation.

The two countries lived the last years in extremely difficult conditions: while the first one has been hit by a severe drought, the second one, already going through a serious economic crisis, has been further afflicted by a growing inflation caused by the war in Ukraine, in which bread crisis is becoming an element of unbearable concern[6].

But those are not isolated cases, there are actually so many other Countries that are currently going through wars and international crises like Libya, Syria, Lebanon, all united by a relationship of dependency from Ukrainian and Russian wheat. The situation is progressively declining and it leaves no doubts: the beginning of one of the most important famines of the last years might actually hit those individuals who already find themselves in a fragile position, even due to a general worsening of the situation that has been occurring during the last few years.

A scarcity condition that does not limit itself to wheat, but also hits the production of corn and other cereals that are fundamental, especially for livestock supplies. This is an issue that mainly hits China, whose importation to feed its system of internal subsistence appear to have been growing during the last few months, maybe in view of a potential intensification of the conflict on the border between Russia and Ukraine; however this wouldn’t exclude China from a larger scale crisis[7].

Italy also needs to be added to the list since 53% of its corn is imported, of which 20% from Ukraine. A similar situation is the one concerning vegetable oil, whose European stock is destined to finish within the next 4-6 weeks, according to the latest esteems[8]. An extremely critical situation, that deserves to be analyzed and constantly monitored, especially for the devastating implications that might be generated in the most fragile Countries, probably destined to be hit the hardest by one the the most important food crisis of history.

Translated by Immacolata Balestrieri









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  • L'Autore

    Tiziano Sini

    Tiziano Sini dopo aver conseguito la laurea triennale in Scienze politiche presso la facoltà "Cesare Alfieri" di Firenze, si specializza presso la Luiss "Guido Carli" di Roma in Relazioni Internazionale con una tesi in Economia Europea sull'analisi dell'European Green Deal e la relazione con le politiche promosse dal Next Generation Eu.

    Da sempre appassionato di politica nazionale ed internazionale, con uno sguardo sempre rivolto alla dimensione economica.

    All'interno di Mondo Internazionale ricopre la carica di autore occupandosi di tematiche europee.

    Tiziano Sini after having obtained the Bachelor's Degree in Political Science at faculty "Cesare Alfieri" of Florence, majored at Luiss "Guido Carli" of Rome in International Relations with dissertation in European Economy on the analysis of the European Green Deal and the relationship with policies promoted by the Next Generation Eu.

    He was always been passionate about national and international politics, always looking at the economic dimension.

    In the context of Mondo Internazionale he holds the position of author dealing with European affairs.


Sections International Organizations


war Ukraine Russia wheat corn bread Maroccan Lybia Inflation Lebanon food crisis famine

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