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Countries Hoard Food Supplies As Prices Spike, Hunger Crisis Looms

Laurel Duggan 

Countries are imposing export restrictions on food in light of shortage concerns sparked by the war in Ukraine, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

Export restrictions were quickly imposed after Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine to increase domestic supply and slow the rise of prices, but the trend could exacerbate rising global food prices and shortagesaccording to the WSJ. Ukraine and Russia are both major exporters of grains and vegetable oils.

According to the WSJ, restrictions on food or fertilizer exports were put in place in 26 countries in 2022. Economists told the outlet these restrictions would temporarily ease the pain of food shortages in the countries that use them, but are a temporary measure that contributes to higher food prices globally.

India, the world’s second-largest wheat producer, banned wheat exports May 13 as domestic prices jumped while Indonesia, which produces 60% of the world’s palm oil, blocked exports of the substance in late April before lifting the ban in late May.

Ghana barred maize, rice and soybean exports; Argentina banned beef exports; and Iran and Egypt blocked the export of numerous foods, according to the WSJ.

“It’s one of these classic things where there’s really a short-term sugar high for the government … And then you end up with the same scarcity problem you had before,” said Simon Evenett, professor of international trade and economic development at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, according to the WSJ.

Food prices rose nearly 30% over the past year, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, with the trend accelerating following the invasion of Ukraine. President Joe Biden expressed concern about the food shortages March 24.

“With regard to food shortages, yes, we did talk about food shortages,” Biden said. “And it’s gonna be real.”

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