The world was already experiencing food security problems before the Ukraine war.

This risk is becoming a reality as the shortages of grain and fertiliser caused by the war, warming temperatures and pandemic-driven supply problems threaten to expose millions of people to food insecurity.

This sobering analysis of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres shocks all those who fret about a world less able to feed itself.

Meanwhile, our own supermarket shelves are still stacked from top to bottom with the consumables and food staples that most people expect to always be readily available. This may be the reason some fail to understand why so many experts agree on the severity of the pain the world will experience as early as this year.

In the last few days, Sara Menker, the CEO of Gro Intelligence, a global team of technology, climate and agriculture experts, told the UN Security Council that we face a “seismic” crisis that will reach an excruciating phase in about 10 weeks’ time. She added: “Even if the war were to end tomorrow, our food security problem isn’t going away anytime soon without concerted effort.”

The International Monetary Fund, the United Nations and the World Bank are among the many international organisations warning politicians to act to prevent a famine catastrophe. While we are shocked by the loss of lives in Ukraine as a result of Russia’s folly, the loss of life that would be caused by an apocalyptic famine – also in part due to Vladimir Putin’s colossal blunder – may be much more significant.

Health  Minister Chris Fearne appealed to the World Health Organisation to prioritise tackling food insecurity in its actions.

This appeal is no more than stating the obvious. Still, the uncertainties of the war in Ukraine make planning to prevent a famine disaster that much more difficult.

We may be tempted to think that hunger is only an issue for emerging countries in Africa, Asia and South America. But in western countries, too, sections of society suffer from financial insecurity that, in turn, leads to food insecurity.

Our political leaders need to work in the context of the EU institutions to procure the necessary fuel and food to mitigate the shortages caused by the Ukraine war.

So far, the government, through its subsidies, has spared the country the worst effects of rapidly rising inflation in fuel and food. Earlier this month, an agreement was reached to provide wheat importers liquidity as well as storage facilities at the Corradino wheat terminals.

When this support becomes unsustainable – as it is bound to one day soon – the government should ensure that those most likely to suffer the pain of disrupted food supply and of inflation are given priority by the provision of material support.

One can think of a number of scenarios that would cushion the impending crisis in food supply. The best-case scenario would be a quick end to the Ukraine war so that fuel, fertiliser and grain will start to flow again in a return to normality. The worst-case scenario could include an escalation of battlefield action that would see other countries in Europe intervening on a military level to secure the flow of grain, fertiliser and fuel from Ukraine.

We have never faced anything like this. The vast majority of people have absolutely no frame of reference for what could happen if the war in Ukraine drags on for too much longer. One hopes that we have not reached a point of no return in the escalation of hostilities.

The government will have to stay sharply focused on local mitigation of these rising global risks.    

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