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Another food crisis? The Ukraine conflict, global wheat supply and food security

Bentley, Alison; Donovan, Jason; Sonder, Kai; Voss, Rachel; Rutsaert, Pieter; Poole, Nigel; Kamoun, Sophien; Saunders, Diane GO; Hodson, David; Hughes, David P; Baudron, Frédéric; Negra, Christine; Ibba, Maria Itria; Snapp, Sieglinde; Sida, Tesfaye Shiferaw; Jaleta, Moti; Tesfaye, Kindie; Becker-Reshef, Inbal; Govaerts, Bram

The food security impacts of the Ukraine crisis are likely to reverberate over months, if not years, to come. Recent decades have seen geographic concentration of global wheat production. At the same time, drought, other weather extremes and persistent pest and disease pressure, have exacerbated volatility in wheat yields, exports, and prices. The current crisis in Ukraine ushers in substantial new pressures on global wheat markets and tremendous risks for vulnerable populations around the world. If reductions in wheat exports from Ukraine and Russia are as severe as anticipated, global supplies of wheat will be seriously constrained. If fertilizer exports are also impacted, the resulting drop in global agricultural productivity will tighten global markets for wheat, other grains, and alternate food sources, and vulnerable people all over the world will face higher food prices, hunger, and malnutrition. Multidisciplinary research, including lessons learned in past crises, is needed to shape responses to the current crisis that protect modest progress made toward gender equality, biodiversity conservation, and dietary diversification. With these multi-layered crises in view, we propose essential actions to mitigate near-term food security crises, to stabilize wheat supplies in the medium-term, and to transition toward long-term agri-food system resilience. Large and sustained agricultural research investments must be a foundational element of any viable, food-secure future.

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