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The Rising Risk of a Global Food Crisis

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The Rising Risk of a Global Food Crisis

The war in Ukraine poses a looming threat to the worldwide food supply. Here’s what’s at stake – and what might be done to help.


5 mins. de lectura
4 ideas fundamentales
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¿De qué se trata?

How will the war in Ukraine affect the global food supply chain?

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Russia’s war on Ukraine started just before the planting season, jeopardizing food production in one of the world’s “bread baskets.” As experts Daniel Aminetzah and Nicholas Denis discuss with host Lucia Rahilly in The McKinsey Podcast, the cascading impact on the global food supply depends on how long the conflict lasts. While cereals are among Ukraine’s biggest exports, the sanctions’ effect on Russian fertilizer will generate as many or more consequences for food prices. Climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic already pushed producers into imagining new, more sustainable methods, but will the war drive them to innovate further as a crisis evolves? The war’s duration, currently uncertain, is a determining factor.


The war in Ukraine will affect the global food supply chain if producers can’t plant or harvest in 2022.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, just before the first planting season in Ukraine, one of the global “bread baskets,” supplying crucial cereals to importers such as Egypt and Turkey. While the global food supply system has weathered unforeseen events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, this latest disruption could prove catastrophic. 

Russia and Ukraine produce about 30% of the world’s wheat and 65% of its sunflower. Spring is the season for planting barley, sunflower and corn. Wheat’s planting season is July and August. As the conflict proceeds into the summer of 2022, it will affect harvesting, especially if war generates a labor shortage. 

In addition, damage to ports along the Black Sea, a major shipping artery, creates logistical problems. Without knowing the conflict’s scale and duration, it is impossible to know how much food will “disappear.” Estimates range between 19 and 34 million tons in 2022...

About the Podcast

Host of The McKinsey PodcastLucia Rahilly is the New York-based global editorial director and deputy publisher of McKinsey Global Publishing. McKinsey senior partner Daniel Aminetzah advises global agricultural and specialty chemicals companies. And McKinsey partner Nicolas Denis advises governments on sustainable economic development in agribusiness, fisheries, forestry and biotech.

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