Food security and affordability (2023)

Russia’s unjustified invasion of Ukraine is aggravating a global food crisis. EU countries are coordinating actions to help people face soaring prices and provide relief to the world’s poorest.

What is the EU doing to address the food crisis?

The EU and its member states standunited against Russia’s military aggressionin Ukraine and are strongly committed to tackling the global food crisis.

Food security is the major global challenge today. Today’s global food crisis is being exacerbated by Russia’s war against Ukraine. Famine is looming in many parts of the world, and now is the time for all of us to translate our political commitments into concrete action.

European Council President Charles Michel at the Global Food Security Summit, September 2022

Solidarity lanes and the Black Sea grain deal

Infographic - Ukrainian grain exports explained

See full infographic

A major priority for EU countries in addressing growing food insecurity is to help Ukraine export its agri-food production, which has been severely compromised by the Russian invasion.

Ukraine is a key producer and exporter of food staples, such as wheat and maize. Some 90% of its wheat exports went to Africa and Asia between 2016 and 2021, supporting food security in some of the most disadvantaged regions of the world.

With Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s ports from the start of the war, around 20 million tonnes of grain were stuck in storage silos on the Black Sea shores.

In May 2022, the European Commission presented an action plan to establish solidarity lanes. The goal was to develop alternative overland routes to help Ukraine export its agricultural products, by:

  • providing freight rolling stock, vessels and lorries
  • more effectively using the existing capacity of transport networks and transhipment terminals
  • simplifying and speeding up customs operations and other inspections
  • enabling the storage of goods on EU territory

Since the start of operations in May 2022, around 14 million tonnes of Ukraine grain, oilseeds and other products have been exported via the solidarity lanes.

  • Commission communication on EU-Ukraine solidarity lanes

In July 2022, Russia agreed to stop the blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, thanks to the intervention of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in what is known as the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

Shipments of grain via the Black Sea have restarted since then – as of 7 November 2022, over 10 million tonnes of agricultural goods were shipped from Ukraine.

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Over 60% of the wheat transported via the initiative reached developing countries.

At the October 2022 European Council meeting, EU leaders expressed their support for the call by the United Nations Secretary-General to extend the UN Black Sea Grain Initiativebeyond its period ending in November.

  • European Council, 20-21 October 2022

Infographic - How EU countries are addressing the global food crisis

See full infographic

A coordinated response to the food crisis

EU countries’ coordinated work to address the global food crisis is focused on four strands of action, following the Council conclusions agreed in June 2022:

  • solidarity
  • sustainable production
  • trade
  • multilateralism
  • Global food insecurity: Council approves conclusions on the Team Europe response (press release, 20 June 2022)

Solidarity

EU countries are providing emergency relief to those most in need worldwide.

The EU and its member states are the largest provider of development aid globally. The EU is making significant efforts to match its support to the increasing and urgent needs. In June 2022, EU countries supported a €7.7 billion commitment for the period 2021-2024 for food security.

€7.7 billion

committed for food security for 2021-2024

In 2022, EU humanitarian funding grew by 32% compared to 2021, reaching €770 million so far. These funds will be used to ensure access to food for the most vulnerable and support local food production via cash assistance and other means. The EU and its member states are also major donors to the United Nations’ World Food Programme.

In addition, €225 million are provided from the food and resilience facility to Southern neighbourhood partners in theMiddle East and North Africa region.

EU countries also make a significant contribution to global food security by exporting a large part of their agricultural production to developing nations. Over half of the EU’s exports of wheat go to Africa (Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Nigeria) and Asia (Pakistan).

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Sustainable production

Satisfying global food needs should not come at the expense of the environment and should follow a sustainable food system model.

In June 2022, EU leaders agreed to:

  • help developing countriesreorient their supply chains, where necessary
  • accelerate work on the EU initiatives aiming tosupport Africa’s sustainable agri-food production capacities
  • support the development ofinputmanufacturing capacityin developing countries, in particular sustainable fertilisers

Working towards sustainable food systems globally will have a positive impact on countries’ resilience in the face of crises such as the current one.

  • European Council, 23-24 June 2022

Trade

EU countries are working with their international partners to promote anopen and predictable tradeenvironment for agricultural goods.

During the Special European Council meeting in May 2022, EU leaders reiterated their commitment to keep global trade in food commoditiesfree of unjustified trade barriers.

Despite false claims spread by Russian propaganda, the EU’s sanctions against Russiado not affect the agriculture and food sectors. They do not prohibit the import and transportation of Russian agricultural goods, nor payment for such exports.

  • Special meeting of the European Council 30-31 May 2022
  • EU sanctions against Russia explained (background information)

Multilateralism

Effective international coordination is key to ensure a comprehensive global response to the global crisis.

EU countries are cooperating with their international partners to provide a global response to the food crisis, including through initiatives such as the G7 global alliance for food security (GAFS) and the international Food and Agriculture Resilience Mission (FARM).

These initiatives are complementary and focus on three areas of action:

  • short-term solidarity action to boost global food supplies and ensure access for vulnerable countries
  • trade-related action to ensure the efficient functioning of global markets
  • action to enhance long-term responsible investments to create sustainable and resilient food production in vulnerable countries

The EU is also coordinating its response closely with theAfrican Unionto ensure that actions and initiatives are effectively integrated into the wider EU-AU strategic partnership.

In September 2022, European Council President Charles Michel co-chaired a summit on global food security,in the margins of theUnited Nations General Assembly week. Together with the other leaders, they issued a short declaration committing to strengthen international cooperation and partnership initiatives.

  • Leaders’ Summit on Global Food Security

Supporting EU agri-food production

The EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP) has ensured enough food for Europeans over generations and throughout various crises over the last 60 years.

Thanks to this common policy, today EU citizens are at no risk of food shortages.

EU countries are supporting EU farmers to ensure the continuity of production. €500 million will be allocated to farmers most affected by higher input costs.

The EU is providing farmers with:

  • advance payments to address cash flow challenges
  • temporary derogations on some CAP requirements, such as set-aside land
  • a crisis framework to provide further support

In addition, at national level, EU member states can:

  • reduce VAT rates
  • encourage retailers to keep prices down
  • use dedicated EU funds to help the most deprived
  • Common agricultural policy (background information)

What is causing the food crisis?

Infographic - How the Russian invasion of Ukraine has further aggravated the global food crisis

(Video) The cost and affordability of a healthy diet | CFS 50 Side Event 02

See full infographic

Food insecurity has grown globally since 2016. In the context of rising global commodity prices last year and this year,Russia’s war against Ukraineand its use of food as a weapon of war have strongly impacted food markets.

Russia, by weaponising food in its war against Ukraine, is solely responsible for the global food security crisis it has provoked.

European Council conclusions, 23 June 2022

Russia’s military aggression has caused both:

  • scarcity of food
  • all-time high increases in food and fertiliser prices

Global agricultural commodity prices have been constantly rising since mid-2020 against the backdrop of the disruptive impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, soaring fertiliser and energy prices and a global deterioration of macroeconomic conditions.

Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine has exacerbated the market situation, pushing commodity prices up even further andreducing the availability of foodworldwide.

Actions by Russia which have caused a sudden drop in Ukraine’s food exports and production and have had a disruptive effect on markets include:

  • blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports
  • attacks on Ukraine’s food processing and export infrastructure
  • bombing and occupation of Ukraine’s arable land
  • deliberate reduction in own food and fertiliser exports

In March 2022, Russia announced a temporary ban on exports of grains and fertilisers, which led to market destabilisation. Russia is a major producer and exporter of fertilisers, such as nitrogen fertilisers – which are key to ensuring agri-food production.

+60%

increase in global food prices in March 2022 (compared to March 2020)

According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation, food prices reached their peak in March 2022 – with an increase of over 60% compared to 2020. Despite recent decreases, partly due to the restart of food exports from Ukraine, food prices remain above pre-war prices.

The EU has never prevented exports from Russia of food supplies, fertilizers, and other agricultural products. Such products are not subject to EU sanctions.

  • EU sanctions against Russia explained (background information)

Why are Ukraine’s crops key to global food security?

Ukraine, considered the bread basket of Europe, is a top global producer and exporter of agri-food products. It is the fifth largest exporter of wheat worldwide, and the fourth for maize.

Together with Russia, another major exporter, Ukraine coversabout 30% of the world’s maize and wheat supplyand more than half of the world’s supply of sunflower seed oil.

Africa and Asia are the main recipients of Ukraine’s agricultural production. Between 2016 and 2021, more than half (58%) of all wheat exports went to Asia, and 34% to Africa. Ukraine plays a key role in ensuring food security in some of the poorest countries in the world.

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Russia’s attacks on Ukraine’s transport infrastructure and the de factoblockade of its Black Sea ports,from which 90% of Ukraine’s agricultural products are normally exported, have resulted in a drastic drop in exports.

Damage to Ukraine’s crops, food warehouses and agricultural machinery caused by Russian forces have strongly affected Ukraine’s production and export capacity.

Despite the reopening of Black Sea ports, export backlogs remain significant.

Who is most affected by food insecurity and higher prices?

Scarcity of food is a growing concern for millions of people, particularly in Africa and Asia and especially in those countries already afflicted by hunger, such as Somalia, Yemen and Afghanistan.

High food prices affect people’s ability to buy food and add further pressure to low-income households, including in the EU.

The impact of the crisis is likely to continue in thelong term, especially indeveloping countries.

According to the United Nations’ World Food Programme, 205 million people in the world are in need of urgent food assistance, compared to 193 million in 2021, and this is twice as many as in 2016 (Global report on food crises, September 2022).

205 million

people in need of urgent food assistance globally in 2022

Childrenin developing countries are particularly at high risk due to increased acute malnutrition levels resulting from food scarcity and higher prices.

No food shortage in the EU

EU countries are not at risk of food shortages.

The EU is a top producer of agri-food products – it was the top trader worldwide in 2021– and, although Russia’s war in Ukraine and climate change are having an impact on production, the EU’s food system remains solid and reliable.

However, inflation and higher food prices are hitting citizens in EU countries. Affordability is a top concern for EU leaders, particularly with regard to low-income and vulnerable groups, which are affected most.

According to Eurostat, food prices in the EU were almost 9% higher in July 2022 than in the same month in 2021.

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