Russia’s war on Ukraine has already increased global food and fertilizer prices, but the consequences of the conflict are certain to get worse. Together, Ukraine and Russia are responsible for producing about 28% of the world’s wheat. Certain countries, primarily in Africa, rely almost completely on those imports and face direct consequences of the war’s impact on wheat harvests. Russia is also the world’s largest nitrogen fertilizer exporter and a main oil exporter, both necessary for the current existing global food supply system.
In a capitalist world, shortages of vital resources also lead to an increase in cost. Between pandemic shortages and the war’s effect, the UN projects that global food prices could increase by 22% this year and that 830 million people will suffer from undernutrition. To address the wheat shortage, many countries are looking elsewhere for their wheat supply in places like the United States, China, and West Africa. However, the climate crisis – causing more frequent and more severe droughts, heatwaves, and floods – is making those options uncertain. The communications officer at the UN World Food Program said, “[Climate change] creates need where there wasn’t any.” And this is particularly true in the poorest countries, where populations are forced to depend most heavily on these global supply chains.
A capitalist system depends on creating markets with a wide profit margin, meaning skimping on supplies until they are needed. This causes instability, especially during crises like the Covid pandemic. It also fuels conflict – like the one brutally killing Ukrainians – and unsustainable resource extraction that has caused the climate crisis. Capitalism fails us from all sides.
We must organize to end capitalism if we are serious about having a livable future. It is workers that already grow, harvest, distribute, and stock our food supplies and keep our society running – we must organize our power to decide how society should run!