Melissa Harris-Perry: Welcome back to The Takeaway. I'm Melissa Harris-Perry. It's not only gas prices that are up this year. According to the United Nations, global food prices remain close to record highs that they reached in March following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. In the US the consumer price index for food is up more than 14% since 2020. That number is much worse in other places.
In Lebanon, for example, which gets the majority of its wheat from Ukraine, the CPI is up over 3000%, yes, thousand since 2020. One significant factor in these high food prices a Russian Black hate of Ukrainian exports. It's having a cascading effect that's threatening the world's food security, especially in the most food-vulnerable nations. Last month, during an event organized by the US state department, UN secretary-general issued a warning.
Speaker 2: Global hunger levels are at a new high. In just two years the number of severely food insecure people has doubled from 135 million pre-pandemic to 276 million today. More than half a million people are living in famine conditions. An increase of more than 500% since 2016. These frightening figures are inextricably linked with conflict as was cause and effect. If we do not fit people, we fit conflict.
Melissa Harris-Perry: With me now is Anna Nagurney, Chair in Integrative Studies at the Eisenberg School Of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a board member at the Kyiv School of Economics. Welcome to the takeaway, Anna.
Anna Nagurney: Thank you so much for having me on your show.
Melissa Harris-Perry: What's going on with the Black hate of food exports in Ukraine right now?
Anna Nagurney: This is a very, very serious topic and it's really, really important to be broadcasting to the world what is going on. Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th, 2022, there have been major issues in terms of agricultural production and also in terms of agricultural supply chains. There are now silos that are heaving with grain that has been grown in Ukraine. The demand is huge in many countries, which you had mentioned, for example, in the Middle East and also in Northern Africa.
Typically 90% of the grain that was harvested and grown in Ukraine would be shipped through the Black sea that is no longer possible because of the blockade and also the mining of the ports. At the same time, the new harvest is on the horizon. Typically in Ukraine from July to December, that would be very busy time for the exports. There have been all sorts of other discussions going on in terms of different transportation routes. That is really not the solution. This is a crisis that has to be paid attention to the next couple of weeks are absolutely critical I think for the world.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Keep trying to imagine what it means to be a farmer in the context of the devastation and war that we are seeing in Ukraine. Is this about the Ukrainian government? Is this about the Ukrainian economy? Are these outsiders trying to do the day or are these Russian occupiers trying to get the grain out? What what's happening here? Who's the day.
Anna Nagurney: Okay. Well, obviously the Ukrainian farmers and the government, they want to get the grain out because that's a very important component of their national economy. To get the grain out you have the United Nations now under discussions, Poland is helping, even Romania's talking about using one of its cities. That's really challenging. Obviously, you'd have to be talking to the Russians and there are all sorts of sensitivities associated with that.
Melissa Harris-Perry: What are you hearing from some of your colleagues at the Kyiv School of Economics about this food crisis?
Anna Nagurney: They've actually just recently, a few days ago released a major study on the damages in the war to agriculture in terms of the machinery that's been damaged, the silos that have been damaged, and the thefts and so on. Also even the mining of agricultural fields. It's in the billions of dollars already. That is huge. At the same time, the analyses are showing that the way to really get the food out is via the Black Sea. That's the most efficient way.
That's the most cost-effective way because you have these big containers and so forth and these big ships and using trucks and rail is just a stop-gap measure. Right now only about 1.5 million tons are being exported a month and we really need at least the level of 5 million metric tons each month. You see there are great, great challenges right now, logistically, [unintelligible 00:05:41] and we need greater cooperations, a lot of attention being put on this major crisis. We need also a resolution to it and we need it soon. This just shows another reason why this unprovoked war of Russia against Ukraine needs to be stopped is having global ramifications and will continue to have global ramifications.
Melissa Harris-Perry: Now is what's happening one of these unfortunate painful externalities of war or is Russia weaponizing food?
Anna Nagurney: That's an excellent point. I'm actually grateful that you bring it up. It's been about 90 years that we're marking now since what is known as the Holodomor, which occurred in 1932, 1933 in Ukraine and also USSR. Holo in Ukrainian means hunger. It was essentially death by hunger. It arose because Stalin collectivized the farms and also confiscated a lot of the food that was grown by the farmers in Ukraine.
It's been estimated that about 4 million Ukrainians perished because they starved, there were even cases horrific of cannibalization, and about probably a million people if not more in other republics of the USSR. This has essentially happened before. Ukraine has very rich soil, fantastic agriculture. The farmers, they are my heroes. They're still somehow managing to plant and harvest even in wartime as best as they possibly can. It's historic, Déjà vu again 90 years after, see what's happening.
Melissa Harris-Perry: I think so many of us are finding many unexpected heroes in Ukraine and undoubtedly the farmers are among them. Anna Nagurney, Chair in Integrative Studies, the Eisenberg School Of Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Thanks for your time today.
Anna Nagurney: Thank you very much. My pleasure. Do take care, everyone.
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