Instead of “Bless this food we eat and those who made it,” my parents went on to specifically bless the farmers, the people working the production line, the truck drivers, the grocery store clerks, and so on.
It was a while before we actually got to eat our creamy alfredo pasta.
I share this story because it is becoming increasingly important to understand our food supply chain in order to understand how frail it is.
I’ve written about this issue before within our own country, but the global food supply is fragile – especially with the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.
When the war started, food prices shot up overnight. This is because these countries supply a significant amount of the world’s grain and fertilizer (or materials used to make fertilizer).
It was so serious that the United Nations brokered a deal that would ensure grain and fertilizer could still be exported even while the countries continued to fight.
Now, Russia has terminated its part of the agreement, saying the UN has not kept up its end of the deal.
And the situation is escalating quickly.
The consequences will be felt immediately in impoverished countries, but there will be ripple effects the world over.
The History of the Black Sea Grain Deal
In July 2022, the UN and Turkey brokered the deal to allow grain to be shipped from Ukraine to impoverished countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, even while the country was in a war with Russia.
This is because Ukraine is the world’s fifth-largest wheat supplier, and one of the world’s top three exporters of barley, maize, and rapeseed oil.
The Black Sea Grain Deal also allowed Russia to ship food and fertilizer even though they were sanctioned by the West.
Essentially, the grain deal provides guarantees that ships exporting food and fertilizer will not be attacked when entering and leaving ports.
The Black Sea Grain Deal was set to be extended after four months. It was renewed multiple times.
However, Russia started complaining about the deal in October 2022 because they did not feel that they were benefiting. At this point, the deal had been renewed every two months instead of every four months.
On July 17, 2023, Russia announced it was terminating its participation in the Black Sea Grain Deal and will not rejoin unless its demands are met.
Russia said that the United Nations never held up its part of the bargain. They did not lift sanctions on goods’ exports as was promised in the deal that was reached in Turkey last year. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres admitted as much in a statement.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “When the part of the Black Sea deal related to Russia is implemented, Russia will immediately return to the implementation of the deal.”
With Russia no longer participating, it cripples the food supply chain once again.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said the decision means “the recall of maritime navigation security guarantees, the discontinuation of the maritime humanitarian corridor [and] the reinstatement of the ‘temporarily dangerous area’ regime in the north-western Black Sea.”
The ministry also warned, "All ships proceeding to Ukrainian ports in Black Sea waters will be considered as potential carriers of military cargo."
In response, Kyiv said they would do the same: Any ships bound for Russia would be considered military cargo ships.
In other words, ships are in danger as they enter or leave ports in the Black Sea.
On Wednesday, July 19, Ukrainian President Zelinsky accused Russia of attacking grain infrastructure in two Black Sea ports and said that 60,000 metric tons of farm products were damaged.
As of publication, actual damage of farm products has not been confirmed.
In a briefing on Thursday, the Russian ministry identified “‘manufacturing workshops and storage locations of naval drones’ in the Black Sea port of Odessa and its satellite port of Ilyichevsk, which Ukraine calls Chornomorsk, as the targets of the latest attacks.”
The Russian ministry also said they hit fuel infrastructure and ammunition depots in the city of Nikolaev, another major Ukrainian port.
Whatever the truth, this situation does not bode well for the world’s food supply getting where it needs to be.
The Ramifications for the Global Food Supply
According to VOA, “The U.N. grain deal, brokered five months after the war began, helped to bring down global food prices. The U.N. said that since exports from the pact began in August 2022, 32.9 metric tons of food commodities have been exported to 45 countries.”
But if ships are not able to enter or leave ports in the Black Sea, it leads to higher transportation costs.
While Ukraine can send grain via other routes through Eastern Europe, it cannot send as much. Plus, the routes are more difficult and costlier.
Higher transportation costs mean higher food costs.
For instance, when Russia pulled out of the deal, the cost of wheat futures jumped to $6.80 a bushel and corn futures to $5.11 a bushel.
In addition to the higher costs, the lack of fertilizer from Russian exports will lead to less food grown during the planting season.
Shashwat Saraf, the International Rescue Committee’s regional emergency director for East Africa, claims this failed deal “will result in inaccessibility and unavailability of food but also will increase prices and impact affordability for households.”
Globally, there will be high food prices and food shortages because of this failed deal.
[Related Read: How Prepared Are You for Massive Supply Chain Shortages?]
Prep for Food Shortages and Higher Costs Now
In response to Russia’s withdrawal from the deal, the UN Secretary-General wrote a press release.
He said, “The Black Sea Initiative – together with the Memorandum of Understanding on facilitating exports of Russian food products and fertilizers – have been a lifeline for global food security. […] At a time when the production and availability of food is being disrupted by conflict, climate change, energy prices and more, these agreements have helped to reduce food prices by over 23 percent since March last year.”
This section of the press release is important because it reminds us that it is not only the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war that is causing food shortages and higher costs.
The food supply chain is fragile.
It can be brought down overnight by a natural disaster, war, or cyberattack.
We simply cannot depend on grocery stores to feed us.
We must practice self-reliance when it comes to keeping our family fed.
Be self-sufficient and prepared, friends.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply