The instability in Ukraine, and the annexation of Crimea has started to show up in the price of basic commodities such as wheat. Although the economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the USA and Europe were aimed at bringing Putin to heel, politicians have shown a flagrant disregard for the knock on effects of such sanctions.
Although the physical shipping of wheat has not diminished so far, the prices are shooting up, from $5.50 a bushel at the end of January to $7 a bushel today, a rise of 22%.
Russia and Ukraine account for 17% of global wheat exports and there is little doubt that the prices are going to rise much, much higher as Russia fights back against the imposed sanctions by either raising the market price or curtailing the amount it is willing to export.
The latter will lead not only to spiralling costs but to shortages of wheat and therefore shortages of all the products, such as bread that relies on a constant wheat supply.
Bad weather across Europe and freezing conditions and drought in the United States has fuelled worries over the amount of wheat that will be available.
Ukraine is also the worlds third largest exporter of corn, and like wheat, the bulk of it is grown in the Crimea region of the country. Other food prices are rising fast. Coffee has risen 78% since January, soybeans 11% and sugar 23% in the same timeframe.
Large rises in food prices, and food shortages have in the recent past triggered revolutions that have toppled governments. It was food riots in Tunisia that started what we now call the Arab Spring, the revolutionary protests that have spread throughout the Middle East.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking it can’t happen in the West, it can, and if the price of basic commodities is out of the reach of the bulk of the population, it will.
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Contributed by Lizzie Bennett of Underground Medic.
Lizzie Bennett retired from her job as a senior operating department practitioner in the UK earlier this year. Her field was trauma and accident and emergency and she has served on major catastrophe teams around the UK. Lizzie publishes Underground Medic on the topic of preparedness.