War in Ukraine could send food prices soaring, an expert has warned.
Even before the invasion, there was huge concern among the public and politicians about the rising cost of living in Ireland. However, Dr Anne Finnegan, policy analyst with the Irish Farmers Journal, believes that the sanctions will inevitably impact western countries’ economies too.
“If you take Russia and Ukraine as a whole together, they account for about 30% of global wheat exports, 30% of global barley exports, 20% of corn and they account for 80% of global exports of sunflower oil,” Dr Finnegan told Down to Business with Bobby Kerr.
“So they’re hugely significant in terms of the availability of grains on the global market.”
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“The first thing that comes to mind for all of us when we think about grain is bread but grain is used in… other countries [as] the primary feedstuff for the livestock sector.
“So all livestock proteins, like our milk, our cheese, our meats are all derived from grains as well.
“And I suppose there’s a number of challenges here and unknowns at this stage; to what extent will production in Ukraine be impacted from the ongoing conflict and however long that lasts?
“Ukraine exports out through the Black Sea, overnight we’ve heard reports of two ships - an oil tanker and a grain vessel - going in to collect grain that have been caught up in crossfire.
“But it’s not just Ukrainian grain that comes out of the Black Sea. So a lot of Eastern European grain transits through the Black Sea from the port of Constanța in Romania.”
There is, however, one Russian export that Ireland is hugely reliant on and that is fertiliser:
“Certainly in the past year about 25% of our nitrogen fertiliser came from Russia,” Dr Finnegan explained.
“Russia is a commodity powerhouse.
“And it’s the largest exporter of fertiliser. So there are already questions over what impact the availability of fertilisers will have in terms of availability on the world market and certainly availability for a country like Ireland.
“And secondly, what price will farmers ultimately purchase the fertiliser that they need?
“If you strip it back very simply, nitrogen fertiliser equates to food. All of the food that we consume requires fertiliser to be produced.”
“The products that we buy will all likely face rising prices.”
Main image: File photo of a man holding a shopping basket in a supermarket. Picture by: PA.