2022 food crises

Global food price increase and shortage instigated by Russian invasion of Ukraine

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2022 saw a rapid increase in food prices and shortage of food supply around the world. The crises was created by compounding multiple geopolitical, economic and natural causes, such as extreme heat, flooding and drought caused by climate change. The crises follows a food security and economic crises during the COVID 19 pandemic.

Following the outbreak of the 2022 Russian Invasion of Ukraine, the Food and Agriculture Organization as well as other observers of the food commodities markets warned of a collapse in food supply and increase in prices.[1][2][3][4][5] Much of the concern is related to supply shortages of key commodity crops, such as wheat, corn and oil seeds, and how shortages could create price increases.[6] Additionally, fuel and associated fertilizer price increases (because of Russia's significant role in gas and oil and both country's importance in European fertilizer markets), were causing additional shortfalls and price increases.[7]

Even before the War in Ukraine, food prices were already at record highs: as of February 2022, year over year food prices were up 20% according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.[8] The war further increased year over year prices to 40% in March.[9] The compounding issues created by COVID, the War and climate-related crop failures are expected to reverse global trends in reducing hunger and malnutrition.[10] Some regions, such as East Africa and Madagascar, were already experiencing drought and famine due to agricultural system failures and climate changes, and the price increases are expected to make those situations worse.[11][9] Even Global North countries that usually have secure food supplies, such as the UK and US, are beginning to experience direct impacts of cost inflations on the food insecure.[12] Some analysts described the price increases as the worst since the 2007–2008 world food price crisis.[9]


The COVID 19 pandemic significantly disrupted food supply chains around the world, both disrupting distribution channels at the consumption and distribution stages of the food industry. Moreover, a rise prices for fuel and transport, further increased the complexity of distribution as food competed with other goods.

At the same time, significant 2021 floods and heatwaves destroyed key crops in North America, Latin America and Europe.[13]


Russian invasion of Ukraine

Wheat prices surged to their highest prices since 2008 in response to the 2022 attacks.[14] At the time of the invasion, Ukraine was the fourth-largest exporter of corn and wheat, and the world's largest exporter of sunflower oil, with Russia and Ukraine together responsible for 27% of the world's wheat exports and 53% of the world's sunflowers and seeds.[15] The head of the World Food Programme, David Beasley, warned in March that the war in Ukraine could take the global food crisis to "levels beyond anything we've seen before".[16] A potential disruption to global wheat supplies could exacerbate the ongoing hunger crisis in Yemen,[17] Afghanistan[18][19] and East Africa.[20] The American Bakers Association president warned that the price of anything made with grain would begin rising as all the grain markets are interrelated. The chief agricultural economist for Wells Fargo stated that Ukraine will likely be severely limited in their ability to plant crops in spring 2022 and lose an agricultural year, while an embargo on Russian crops would create more inflation of food prices. Recovering crop production capabilities may take years even after fighting has stopped.[21]

Surging wheat prices resulting from the conflict have strained African countries such as Egypt, which are highly dependent upon Russian and Ukrainian wheat exports, and have provoked fears of social unrest.[22] At least 25 African countries import a third of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine, and 15 of them import more than half from those two countries.[23] On 24 February, the Chinese government announced that it would drop all restrictions on Russian wheat as part of an agreement that had been reached earlier in February;[24] the South China Morning Post called this a potential "lifeline" for the Russian economy.[25] On 4 March, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations reported that the world Food Price Index reached an all-time high in February, posting a 24% year-over-year increase. Most of the data for the February report was compiled before the invasion, but analysts said a prolonged conflict could have a major impact on grain exports.[26][27]

On 30 March, at a United Nations meeting, the United States Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman stated that the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, including the naval blockade of Ukraine's sea ports and armed attacks on civilian cargo ships, created a critical food shortage in Ukraine, with worldwide ramifications.[28]

Climate crises

Multiple drought, heat and flooding events during 2020, 2021 and 2022 connected with climate change significantly hurt global food supplies and reserves further making the food system less resilient to shocks like the war in Ukraine. Global reserves of Wheat were extremely low at the beginning of 2022 because of these weather events.[29]

East African drought

A drought that began in 2021, further intensified in East Africa during 2022, precipitated in part by the oncoming La Niña in 2022.[30][31] Three rainy seasons failed in the horn of Africa region, destroying crops and killing large herds of livestock.[30] The UN identified 20 million people at risk of famine.[30] Both wildlife and livestock have been witnessed dying of the drought.[30] In part the region is vulnerable because an extreme wet season precipitated the 2019–2021 locust infestation which destroyed large regions of crops.[30]

By early October 2021, nearly a year after the Tigray War started, Mark Lowcock, who led OCHA during part of the Tigray War, stated that the Ethiopian federal government was deliberately starving Tigray, "running a sophisticated campaign to stop aid getting in" and that there was "not just an attempt to starve six million people but an attempt to cover up what's going on."[32]

North American Heatwave and drought
European extreme weather

Drought in Spain and Portugal during early 2022 led to losses predictions in some areas of 60-80% of crops.[33] Fruit crops in most of Europe were also damaged from a cold wave that caused freezing rain, frost and snow during early budding caused by unseasonably early warm weather.[34]

Southern Cone Heat Wave

A heatwave that deeply effected Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Southern Brazil caused yield decline of corn crops, soy and other key grains causing significant global commodity price increases.[35][36][37][38] The heatwave further exacerbated an already dry season in much of the region.[38]

Australian floods

A severe flood in New South Wales during February 2022 caused complete destruction of soy and rice crops and 36% of macadamia nut production.[39] Animal herds and farming infrastructure were also severely damaged.[40] It was the third major natural disaster to the agriculture communities in this region.[40]

Supply chain failures

In China, rolling lockdowns as part of the Zero-Covid policy significantly reduced key agricultural inputs for important grain crops.[41]

Effects by region


Europe's energy crisis caused by the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine caused significant food price increases for European fertilizer and food industries.[42][43] According to Julia Meehan, the head of fertilizers for the commodity price agency ICIS, "We are seeing record prices for every fertiliser type, which are all way above the previous highs in 2008. It's very, very serious. People don't realise that 50% of the world's food relies on fertilisers."[44]

MENA and East Africa

Price increases for certain staples such as wheat were expected to most severely affect countries like Egypt, Turkey, and Somalia, which rely heavily on wheat imports from Ukraine and Russia.[9] This is expected tofurther hurt prices in regional food markets, such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and South Sudan.[9]

These changes of the food market caused by the Invasion of Ukraine, further exacerbated an already vulnerable Horn of Africa region experiencing drought.[30] In February, World Food Program and UNICEF were already projecting nutrition and hunger gaps for thirteen million people in East Africa.[45] By March, the UN had expanded that number to 20 million people.[46]

North America

North America was already experiencing significant shortfalls and supply chain issues connected to the 2020–22 North American drought and 2021–2022 global supply chain crisis.[9]

West Africa

Oxfam, ALIMA and Save the Children warned that the food crises in West Africa could affect 27 million people, especially in Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Mali, and Nigeria .[47]


United States

The Biden Administration responded to the growing shortages in April, by trying to increase US farm production. The US policy community was worried about China or other countries filling the food gap. Obstruction in the US Congress prevented new funding and resources for the crises.[29] A group of 160 advocacy groups challenged funding cuts by the Biden administration and Congress to USDA programs.[48]


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