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Who is starving developing countries?

By Xin Ping | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2022-06-20 11:59

Ears of wheat are seen in a field near the village of Hrebeni in Kyiv region, Ukraine, July 17, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

The prices of many agricultural commodities, have skyrocketed since the Russia-Ukraine conflict. According to the UN World Food Programme, the biggest food crisis since World War II is looming large for the humanity.

While Western countries have been hyping up a "Putin's Price Hike", blaming the soaring food prices on Russia, they can hardly absolve themselves of the blame for starving developing countries.

Russia and Ukraine, both major grain exporters, were plunged into a conflict three months ago as a result of the constant eastward expansion of NATO. Russia and Ukraine alone accounted for 16% and 10% of total global wheat export respectively in the 2021-2022 season. Despite recurring hope for peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, the US keeps fanning the flame by providing Ukraine with weapons to "fight Russia to the last Ukrainian".

Apparently, the longer the war drags on, the heavier agricultural losses Russia and Ukraine are to suffer, and the harder blow it will deal to global food production and supply chains.

To crush Russia, the US has ganged up with its allies to impose unilateral sanctions on Russian agricultural products and fertilisers. As a result, the global price index for fertilisers of all types has risen by more than 30%, and a large number of developing countries in urgent need of Russian fertilisers are bearing the brunt. Tereza Cristina, Agriculture Minister of Brazil, cautioned that banning the supply of Russian fertilisers would increase inflation and threaten global food security.

In fact, developed countries always have the final say in whether developing countries can buy food and at what price. Twelve major food producing regions including the US, Canada and Europe, which produce and export 70% of the world's food, have cut back their supply after the Russia-Ukraine conflict, while pressuring major food storage countries such as India and Australia to increase their reserves and limit the export of excess stocks. Some major food traders in Western countries have been manipulating production and pricing of agricultural raw materials and food, reaping excessive profits from the volatility of global food supply.

According to Abdel-Dayem Abu Awwad, general director of Gaza's biggest AL-Salam Mills Company, its current daily flour production has fallen to 10-20% of its normal capacity due to the rising raw material prices. A local bakery owner also said that the impact of the price surge on the Gaza people was significant.

The price spikes cannot be entirely attributed to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. It has grown on top of the price increases of the past two years when Western countries bought food with overprinted money, and complicated the international food market with their geopolitical strategies over the years.

The US, for example, has long been indifferent to the starving people in the developing countries when itself is sitting on abundant domestic supply. Back in May 2020, when attempting to sustain its regional influence after losing the battle in Syria, the US dropped incendiary bombs on wheat fields that were about to be harvested, destroying 20 hectares of them in Syria. Immediately after the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, the US froze 7 billion dollars of Afghan Central Bank's reserves, leaving the Afghan economy on the verge of collapse and the Afghan people in hunger. An assessment by the World Food Programme showed that only 5% of the Afghan households had access to sufficient food. That stands in stark contrast when 30-40% of food is wasted in the US each year, and total food waste in 2018 reaching a staggering 103 million tonnes.

Already the hardest-hit by global food crises, developing countries should not be the one to pay the price for the irresponsible actions of developed countries.

The author is a commentator on international affairs, writing regularly for Global Times, China Daily etc.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.

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