It looms in the uncertain haze of our future like a huge ship in the fog, uncertain in its exact position and direction, certain in its deadly presence and relentless progress. It’s famine, and it’s almost close enough to see when and where it will strike.
Long called the breadbasket of Europe, in a global economy Ukraine and southern Russia could be called the breadbasket of the world. That is, before Russia closed Ukraine’s ports with a naval blockade and NATO member Turkey closed the Black Sea exit for Russia.
Twenty million metric tons of grain lie in Odessa’s silos alone. Exporting somehow, Uraine took out 46.31 million tons from July to June, but for May only 643,000 tons came out, against 1.8 million last year. You just can’t move things by train like you can by boat.
Many businesses now operate with “just in time” logistics, with their supply of materials arriving just when they are needed, minimizing the need to maintain large stores. Many countries, out of necessity, operate the same way when it comes to food: more arrives just before everything runs out. But if your food supply is cut off today, your people will start starving tomorrow. If they have been on the brink of deadly starvation for a long time, this morrow can finish them off.
Forty-four million of our fellow human beings are on the brink of starvation, an unfortunate set of circumstances that make the eternal threat greater now than usual. The Horn of Africa is experiencing its worst drought in 40 years and, since the summer of 2020, locusts. La Nina causes drought in some places, floods in others, or both sequentially in the same places. Ukraine and neighboring Russia supply 30% of the world’s wheat. For example, 30% from Egypt, 70% from Lebanon and 90% from East Africa.
Global wheat stocks for marketing year 2022-3 are 267 million metric tonnes, down from 272 million expected and a six-year low. Unexpected heat sent India down to 99 tonnes from a forecast 106, prompting an export ban. The US crop is hoping for a 5% increase, but the winter wheat crop is down 8%. Canada is expecting a 50% increase, but that’s because last year’s catastrophic drought resulted in a harvest of less than 23 million tonnes, compared to more than 35 million the previous year.
The other major exporters, Argentina, Australia and the European Union, are expected to experience an overall supply reduction of 4%.
China keeps its own stores, but is believed to hold 53% of the world’s total wheat in store. Of course, in tough times, China will be a buyer of grain, while the rest of us will push the price up, perhaps beyond the reach of those with such little personal responsibility. that they were born poor.
Not only cereals, but also cooking oil and fertilizers for a large part of the world pass through the Black Sea. This latest loss may affect crop yields for years to come. For other long-term effects, grain-exporting towns on the western Black Sea coast may not survive the war. Mariopol has already been destroyed; Odessa could suffer the same fate.
They say it will take 10 years for them to be restored. Might as well be never; Carthage never did.
Russia is no stranger to the militarization of starvation. In 1932-1933, Stalin’s USSR (Czar’s Empire 2.0 resurrected) expanded the opportunity presented by bad weather and the initial total failure of collectivized agriculture to encourage appropriate Soviet attitudes through the selective release of reserves limited grain. Called Holomodor, a Ukrainian word meaning death from starvation, the catastrophic famine was denied until the 1980s.
At that time, the Soviets estimated that 7–11 million deaths had occurred in the southern regions of the USSR. According to an unbiased opinion, 5 million people died in Ukraine alone; Ukrainians estimate the toll at 10 million. Photographs show the dead littering the sidewalks of Kharkiv. Cannabalism was common; 2,500 have been convicted, surely a fraction of those who have used it. The Soviet government posted posters denouncing the immorality of eating your children. From 1926 to 1939, the population of Russia increased by 17%, that of Belarus by 12%; That of Ukraine fell by nearly 7%.
Russia was talking about humanitarian corridors for the export of grain. Lately, I’ve been hearing their threats instead about how famine in Africa will cause mass migrations that will destroy the fabric of European society. They certainly did everything they could to drive people out of Syria once they saw the problem Europe had with immigrants.
We need to stop worrying about who slapped who, go back to teaching history without using fighting words to describe the teaching, correctly blaming Saudi Arabia for the price of gasoline, correctly blaming the people who buy so much useless stuff for inflation and help Ukraine abort this resurrection of the Empire of the Tsars 3.0 before really bad things happen.