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Global Food Security in the Context of the Russia-Ukraine Conflict and China’s Food Security Policy Options in the New Era


Experts from China Agricultural University argue the war in Ukraine will have long-term impacts on food supply chains and the global economy, causing many states to improve agricultural self-sufficiency, hoard supplies, and restrict exports. In this environment, the scholars suggest Beijing reduce its vulnerability to Western sanctions and enhance its influence over international food supply chains by encouraging Chinese agricultural conglomerates to develop a larger international presence and by better regulating and supporting agricultural production and innovation at home.

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 1  Introduction

1 引言

“The people are the foundation of the country, and food is the primary need of the people” (民为国基,谷为民命). Food security is the “ballast” of the national economy. At the 2022 Central Rural Work Conference, General Secretary Xi Jinping said that “ensuring a stable and secure supply of food and important agricultural products has always been the top priority in building a strong agricultural country.” Since the 18th Party Congress, the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as its core, basing itself on the new situation at home and abroad, has proposed a national food security strategy of “putting China’s need first, focusing on the domestic conditions, ensuring production capacity, maintaining moderate imports, and leveraging scientific and technological support”. The No. 1 central documents and government work reports have also repeatedly discussed food issues, including food production, structural adjustments, seed industry science and technology (S&T), and policy support, pointing out the direction for anchoring the goal of building a strong agricultural country and ensuring food security.


Under the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the global economic recovery is fragile to external risks, the challenges of climate change are pronounced, and the tasks of economic and social development are extremely onerous and arduous. Since its outbreak in February 2022, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has evolved into a major geopolitical game with global consequences. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has had a major impact on the global supply chains for petroleum energy, fertilizer, and other raw materials, as well as grain, causing commodity prices to soar. In the short term, the Russia-Ukraine conflict will have a negative impact on China’s trade of agricultural products and China’s grain supply and prices, but the overall impact is controllable. What deserves vigilance is the long-term impact of the uncertainty and systemic risks brought by the Russia-Ukraine conflict on food security. In one respect, grain production is a cyclical work and there is a certain lag between supply and demand changes and price fluctuations. Instability in fertilizers, energy, germplasm resources, logistics and transportation, and other areas are showing impacts through supply chains and international markets, and their impact on the domestic grain market may undergo a cumulative and amplifying process, easily giving rise to systemic risks. In another respect, as a global geopolitical conflict, the Russia-Ukraine conflict will reshape the international agricultural trade landscape and have a significant and far-reaching impact on the reconstruction of the global value chain. Due to differences in agricultural resource distributions and economic conditions, some African countries that experience resource shortages will face severe food crises. The uncertainty caused by geopolitical conflicts can easily lead to policy failures and market failures, thereby triggering systemic risks in the global grain market.


As a country with a large population, China’s agricultural resources are relatively limited. How to use scarce land resources to properly solve the food security problem to facilitate China’s growth in the new era is a decisive matter for national stability and sustainable development. To ensure food security, we must properly ensure the overall coordination of internal and external relations. We must not only base ourselves on the domestic situation, ensure the stable growth of grain output, and stabilize the import and export channels of fertilizer, energy, germplasm resources, and other agricultural products, but also secure various emergency plans, and prevent and resolve risks and threats to domestic food security caused by changes in the international environment, international trade rules, and other aspects of the external environment. It is extremely urgent and important to analyze the impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on China’s trade in agricultural products and food security in terms of its long-term and systemic risks. Based on the new situation of the global food security crisis in the context of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, this article focuses on analyzing the long-term impact of the conflict on China’s food security and the systemic risks it may bring about, and provides policy suggestions for preventing domestic agricultural product market risks, improving the resilience of the grain industrial chain and supply chain, and building a more resilient national food security reserve system.


The contributions of this article are mainly reflected in the following three areas: First, this article distinguishes the short-term and long-term impacts of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on global food security and systematically summarizes the uncertainties and new changes in the global food security landscape in the context of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, providing a decision-making reference to help China deal with the possibility of systemic risks in terms of global food security. Second, this article analyzes the long-term impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on China’s food security from the perspective of the global grain supply chain, providing a theoretical basis to help China build an all-round, multi-level national food security reserve system and formulate medium- and long-term food security plans. Third, based on the current complex international geopolitical situation and the new stage of domestic economic development, this article puts forward important policy suggestions for improving national food security.


This article is structured as follows: The first and second parts will provide an introduction and literature review. The third part will analyze the short-term and long-term impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on the global grain market and summarize the uncertainties and new changes in the global food security landscape in the context of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The fourth part will analyze the long-term impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on China’s grain market and the ensuing difficulties in China’s food security. The fifth part will offer ideas and suggested countermeasures to improve China’s food security.


2 Literature Review

2 文献回顾

The continued Russia-Ukraine conflict has intensified the global food security crisis. Relevant research has focused on the impact and influence of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on food security and the governance options for food security issues in this context.


2.1  The Shock and Impact of the Russia-Ukraine Conflict on Food Security

2.1 俄乌冲突对粮食安全的冲击和影响

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has triggered security crises at multiple levels, covering energy, finance, and food, among which its impact on food security has been the most prominent.1 Looking at Russia and Ukraine, Russia has long occupied an important position in the global grain supply market, energy supply market, and supply market for fertilizers and other agricultural materials, based on its advantages in resources such as land, energy, and minerals. In the context of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, Russia has tightened its exports of grain, energy, and fertilizers. To a certain extent, this has aggravated the supply and demand imbalance in markets such as grain, energy, and fertilizers, pushed up global market prices of grain and related products, and directly or indirectly increased uncertainty risks in the global grain market.2 Russia relies on its control of key strategic resources such as grain and energy to take countermeasures against Western anti-Russian forces, further provoking global food security concerns.3 As for Ukraine, as the conflict is mainly concentrated within its own territory, Ukraine’s domestic grain production has consequently suffered a heavy blow. Large areas of land previously used for the production of major grain crops such as corn, wheat, and sunflower seeds have been abandoned. Especially in the east, the main grain-producing area due to its fertile soil, farmland infrastructure and production equipment have been severely damaged, and grain production and harvests have suffered losses that are difficult to accurately estimate.4 Restrictions on Ukraine’s grain and oil exports have caused grain and oil prices to rise in the global market, especially for agricultural products such as sunflower oil, wheat, and corn, for which Ukrainian exports account for a significant share. The most severely affected countries are mainly countries that import large amounts of grain from Ukraine, such as Egypt, China, India, Indonesia, and the Netherlands.5 From a global perspective: In one respect, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has led to a contraction in food production and supply, disrupting important grain production and supply channels, and lifting the overall grain prices. It has intensified the long-standing food insecurity and hunger-driven panic in low- and middle-income countries that previously suffered from climate change, trade restrictions, and insufficient grain production and storage capacity, and intensified the global food security crisis.6 7 In another respect, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has caused panic on the consumer side and produced a chain reaction, with the frequent occurrence of political instability and social conflicts, especially in low- and middle-income countries,8 9 10 as well as countries and regions that are highly dependent on grain imports and have weak grain self-sufficiency themselves. Typical examples of such countries and regions include states in the Middle East and Africa, which are heavily dependent on the Russian and Ukrainian grain markets. In contrast, countries with high food self-sufficiency levels and strong economies remained relatively calmer.11 12 In short, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has had a negative impact on food security in terms of the production and supply of grain and key agricultural materials, exacerbating the global food security crisis. However, in the context of the food crisis, there are obvious differences concerning the realities faced by different regions and different economies.


2.2  Governance Options for Food Security Issues in the Context of the Russia-Ukraine Conflict

2.2 俄乌冲突下粮食安全问题的治理路径

The food security crisis in the context of the Russia-Ukraine conflict has put all countries on edge. Though the Russia-Ukraine conflict is the event that triggered the food security crisis, to solve the food security problem, one should not only focus on the conflict itself, but also go beyond and look at problems in food security governance. Food security issues have a longstanding history, and the current outbreak is a combined effect of multiple historical factors. Researchers generally hold that emphasis should be made on the uneven distribution of global agricultural resources,13 climate change and extreme weather,14 15 the implementation of climate governance measures,16 regional conflicts,17 18 public health emergencies, 19 rising energy and shipping prices,20 trade protectionism,21 food financialization,22 and many other problems. To benefit in the long-run, we should take a holistic view of how to solve the food security problem. At the same time, some research has noted the reality of the global grain supply chain revealed by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and recommended stabilizing the grain supply chain, building a well-established grain purchase and storage mechanism, improving food supply and security capabilities by increasing production and reducing consumption, and paying attention to improving grain self-sufficiency and reducing food dependence on foreign countries. 23 24 Many Chinese scholars have been keen on China’s food security issues and pointed out that we must put forward targeted measures to address the uncertainty of the trade environment,25 depletion and deterioration of the food production resources and environment,26 mismatch of resource, elements, and space,27 non-agricultural usage (非粮化) of cultivated land,28 high production costs,29 low quality of grain production and insufficient agricultural S&T innovation,30 and other factors that restrict Chinese grain production capacity, so as to prevent potential risk spillover from forming systemic risks. At the same time, we must improve the distribution efficiency of production resources, solve the problem of fragility of food production, increase our price negotiating power in the grain market, build secure and controllable food trade channels, and ensure food supply for key food varieties and vulnerable groups.31 32


2.3 Commentary on Existing Literature

2.3  文献评述

The issue of food security has received widespread attention. Existing research has analyzed the causes, transmission paths, potential impacts, governance options, and other food security issues from different perspectives. However, current research on food security mostly focuses on China’s domestic resource limitations and international market conditions. When it comes to the fluctuations in supply, demand, and prices in the global food market caused by external shocks, there is insufficient research on the long-term impacts on domestic food security and possible systemic risks that may arise from production chains, supply chains, and financial markets. In the context of the ongoing evolution of the current Russia-Ukraine conflict, there is still room for further reflection on the new changes in global food security and China’s food security governance options. This is precisely where this article attempts to build on the existing literature. In view of this, this article focuses on analyzing the uncertainty and the new landscape of global food security in the context of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, organizing and laying out the current food security realities faced by China from the perspective of long-term impact and systemic risk, and finally puts forward ideas and suggested countermeasures for China’s food security governance at this new stage.


3  New Landscape in Global Food Security in the Context of the Russia-Ukraine Conflict

3 俄乌冲突下全球粮食安全新变局

Russia and Ukraine are major producers of a variety of important agricultural products and are typical net exporters of agricultural products. Their wheat, barley, corn, sunflower oil, and other agricultural products occupy an important position in the global grain and oil markets. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has led to uncertainty in terms of grain supply from Ukraine and Russia, pessimism regarding agricultural product trade, and amplified price fluctuations. Coupled with the impact of factors such as trade protectionism, grain export restrictions, and competition for grain to produce clean fuels, global grain prices have seen a general rise, grain supply has contracted and is barely meeting demand, the phenomenon of grain buy-ups and grain hoarding has become prominent, causing extreme challenges from the perspective of global food security. The Russia-Ukraine conflict has affected the global trade landscape and supply chain layout. The spillover effects of the food crisis continue to spread and amplify through the supply chain and financial markets, increasing the risk of a global economic crisis and bringing uncertainty to the post-pandemic recovery of the global economy.


3.1 The Positions of Russia and Ukraine in the Global Food Supply Chain

3.1  俄乌两国在全球粮食供应链中的地位

Russia and Ukraine possess globally important grain-producing regions. Russia has the world’s largest black soil belt by area, with agricultural land accounting for 13% of the country’s total territory. The gross output of wheat, Russia’s main staple, was 76 million tons in 2021, accounting for 9.72% of the world’s total wheat output. Ukraine’s agricultural land accounts for 70% of its land area. In 2021, the output of its main food crops, wheat and corn, were 33 million tons and 41.9 million tons respectively, accounting for 4.25% and 3.47% of the world total. Exports from Russia and Ukraine account for a large proportion of total global exports of various agricultural products and they are the main sources of food supply for many countries in West Asia and Africa. Public data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) for 2021 shows that, as of the end of 2021, Russian and Ukrainian grain exports accounted for the highest proportion of the global market for sunflower oil, with the total market share of the two countries standing at 78.00% (Russia 28.00%, Ukraine 50.00%). This was followed by wheat at 32.53% (Russia 21.99%, Ukraine 10.54%), barley at 29.60% (Russia 12.93%, Ukraine 16.67%) and corn at 16.25% (Russia 2.25%, Ukraine 14.00%) (as shown in Figure 1). From a global perspective, on the one hand, the food supply is mainly contributed by a few countries with obvious advantages in agricultural resource endowments. On the other hand, at least half of the countries in the world are highly dependent on imports for their grain supply. As of the end of 2021, about 50 countries and regions around the world still relied on Russia and Ukraine for more than 30% of their wheat supply, and 26 countries relied on Russia and Ukraine for more than 50% of their wheat imports. Fertilizer exports from Russia and Ukraine also occupy an important place in the world market. In 2021, Russia was the world’s largest exporter of nitrogen fertilizers, the second-largest supplier of potash fertilizers, and the third-largest supplier of phosphate fertilizers. Russia’s control over the supply of chemical fertilizers remains a primary contributor to the imbalance between supply and demand of the global fertilizer market.

俄罗斯和乌克兰是世界重要粮食产区。俄罗斯拥有世界面积最大的黑土带,农业用地占国土面积的13%,2021年主要粮食作物小麦的产量为o.76亿吨,占世界小麦总产量的9.72%。乌克兰农业用地占国土面积的70%,2021年主要粮食作物小麦和玉米的产量分别为3 300万吨和4 190万吨,分别占世界小麦和玉米总产量的4.25%和3.47%。俄罗斯和乌克兰多种农产品出口在世界出口总额中占据较大比重,是西亚和非洲地区多个国家的主要粮食供给来源。联合国粮农组织(FA())2021年公开数据显示,截至2021年底,俄乌出口粮食在全球市场中份额最高的为葵花籽油,两国总市场份额为78.00%(俄罗斯28.00%,乌克兰50.00%),小麦32.53%(俄罗斯21.99%,乌克兰lo.54%)、大麦29.60%(俄罗斯12.93%,乌克兰16.67%)和玉米16.25%(俄罗斯2.25%,乌克兰14.00%)次之(图1)。从全球范围看,一方面粮食出口供应主要集中在少数几个农业资源禀赋优势明显的国家,另一方面全球至少一半以上的国家粮食供给高度依赖进口。截至2021年底,全球仍有大约50个国家和地区超过30%的小麦供应依赖俄乌两国,26个国家50%以上的小麦进口来自俄乌两国。俄乌两国的肥料出口也在世界市场占有重要一席,2021年,俄罗斯是全球第一大氮肥出口国、第二大钾肥供应国、第三大磷肥供应国,俄罗斯对化肥供给的控制直接影响了全球化肥市场供需失衡状态。

Figure l  Russia’s and Ukraine’s global market share for certain grains and fertilizers in 2021

图l 2021年俄罗斯、乌克兰部分粮食及化肥供给在全球市场的占比

Data source: FAO, the same for Figures 2 and 3.

3.2  Short-Term Perspective: Impact of the Russia-Ukraine Conflict on the Global Grain Market

3.2 短期视角:俄乌冲突对全球粮食市场产生的影响

3.2.1  Supply and Demand: Sharp Contraction in Supply Drove Demand Shifts and Panic Purchasing
3.2.1  供给和需求层面:供给急剧收缩,推动需求转移和恐慌性采购

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has halted the sowing, harvesting, transportation, and other stages of production for Ukraine’s main agricultural products, and the export of Russia’s main agricultural products and Russian fertilizer production has also been subject to both internal and external constraints. This has seriously affected the output and trade volume of wheat, corn, sunflower oil, and other products, which exacerbated the tense situation for the supply of global agricultural products.


First, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has affected Ukraine’s planted area of grain and its output, reducing its food supply for the world. Data from the Ukrainian Ministry of Agriculture shows that about 35% of the country’s wheat production is concentrated in the eastern region, which was affected by the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine has resulted in heavy losses in winter agricultural products in Ukraine that are ready to harvest. The area sown with major agricultural products has been significantly reduced, and the total harvestable area and its yield for the year are difficult to predict. In the short term, Ukraine has lost its status as a major grain exporter, and the global grain supply capacity has declined significantly. According to forecasts by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Ukraine’s wheat exports are expected to drop to 11 million tons in 2022/2023, coarse grain exports to 17.93 million tons, and corn exports to 15.5 million tons, a year-on-year decrease from 2021/2022 of 42%, 46%, and 33%.


Second, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has severely hampered shipping from ports and on land, threatening to disrupt the global grain supply chain. The Russia-Ukraine war has paralyzed the logistics at the Black Sea ports, and land rail and road transportation systems have all but come to a standstill. Ukraine’s grain exports will face risks of shipping cancellations or delayed delivery, and logistics disruptions of the Black Sea ports may also affect the grain exports for the neighboring countries of Romania, Bulgaria, and Kazakhstan. Public data from the Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine shows that Ukraine’s grain exports in November 2022 were less than 3 million tons, a further decline from the 4.2 million tons exported in October. Although Russia’s transportation capacity was unaffected, the level of its food supply has also been greatly compromised due to external sanctions. The April 2023 report of the FAO showed that world grain trade volume in 2022/2023 is expected to decrease by 2.7% compared with 2021/2022, to 469 million tons. The world may find it difficult to recover from the grain supply crisis produced by the Russia-Ukraine conflict in the short term.


Third, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has caused other countries to increase their imported grain reserves and adopt export restrictions. At the same time, major grain-producing areas are under great pressure, and with limited ability to seek alternative sources of supply in the short term, the tension between global grain supply and demand is rising. In the context of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, most countries throughout the world have made adjustments to scale up their grain reserves to varying degrees. Major grain-importing countries have increased the scale of imports for their main reserve grains. At the same time, countries and regions that have long been highly dependent on the Russian and Ukrainian markets for imported grain have begun to look for alternative sources of imports. These shifts in grain demand have led to a heightening panic in the grain market. Taking wheat as an example, besides Russia and Ukraine, the world’s major wheat exporting countries currently include Canada, the United States, Australia, India, and Argentina. Among these countries, Canada’s wheat inventory level is already low (August 2022); the US wheat output for 2022 will be reduced due to drought and will mainly be reserved to meet domestic supply needs; Australia has increased its planned exports for 2022 to meet market needs; and Argentina has also already sold 95% of its wheat available for export in 2022. At present, none of the main potential alternative sources can quickly make up insufficient wheat supply shortage of Russia and Ukraine in the short term. In addition to wheat, edible oil and fat products such as sunflower oil are also facing serious supply shortage risks because of the difficulty of finding alternative sources.


3.2.2  Price Levels: The Russia-Ukraine Conflict has Pushed up Global Grain Prices, and Grain Price Levels Continue to Remain High
3.2.2 价格层面:俄乌冲突推高全球粮价,粮价水平居高不下

Under the impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, global grain product prices have been further rising from the high levels seen in 2021, with prices of major grains such as wheat, soybeans, and corn rising to their highest level in the past eight years. After the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the prices of major global agricultural products continued to rise from their levels in the previous period, creating a global wave of rising grain prices. As shown in Figure 2, the global food price index in 2022 far exceeded the same period in 2019, 2020, and 2021. In the first month after the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict (March 2022) the food price index reached its highest level in recent years. Although it continued to decline since then, it was still much higher than the same period in previous years. From this, it can be seen that global grain and food prices are directly impacted by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and its effect has been overtly persistent.


Figure 2   Comparison of monthly food price index data from 2019 to 2022

图2 2019 2022年食品价格指数月度数据对比

The index baseline is set at 100 representing prices from 2014-16. The same applies to Figure 3.

Under the ongoing impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, global grain prices continued to rise. As shown in Figure 3, the price indexes of meat, milk, grain, vegetable oil, and sugar all rose sharply after the outbreak of the conflict. Among these, the price index for vegetable oils, including sunflower oil, saw the sharpest increase. The general rise in global food prices has caused a global food security crisis. Russia’s fertilizer exports from March to September 2022 fell by 38% year-on-year, and international buyers lost nearly 8 million tons of fertilizer supply. According to the International Fertilizer Association (IFA), global fertilizer deliveries are expected to drop by 7% year-on-year in 2022, with Asia and Africa bearing the brunt of the impact. The decline in fertilizer supply has triggered an increase in prices across the board. For example, Japan’s fertilizer prices increased by 8% to 31% from June to October 2022, setting a new high since 1999. Specifically, the price of potassium chloride increased by 31%, phosphate fertilizer increased by 16%, compound fertilizer increased by 10%, and the price of urea increased by 11%. As a key element in fertilizer production, the price of energy has also soared. Data from the Dutch Title Transfer Facility Natural Gas Price Index (TTF), the European natural gas price benchmark, showed a maximum increase in natural gas prices of 270% in May 2022, while U.S. natural gas futures prices saw a maximum increase of 192%. The rise in energy prices further aggravated the increase in fertilizer prices.

在俄乌冲突的持续影响下,全球谷物价格持续上涨,如图3所示,肉类、奶类、谷物、植物油油脂和食糖价格指数均在俄乌冲突爆发后出现大幅上涨,其中以葵花籽油为代表的植物油油脂价格指数涨幅最为突出,全球粮食价格普涨造成全球性的粮食安全危机。2022年3 9月俄罗斯的化肥出口同比下降38%,国际买家损失了近800万吨的化肥供应。据国际肥料工业联合会(IFA)预计,2022年全球化肥投放量同比预计下降7%,其中亚洲和非洲首当其冲。化肥供应量的下滑引发价格全线上涨,例如日本2022年6 10月化肥价格提高了8%~31%,创下1999年以来的新高,其中氯化钾涨价31%、磷酸肥料涨价16%、复合肥涨价10%、尿素涨价11%。而能源作为化肥生产的关键性要素,价格也一路飙升,欧洲天然气价格基准荷兰产权转让设施天然气价格指数(TTF)2022年5月数据显示,天然气最高涨幅达270%,美国天然气期货价格最高涨幅达到192%,能源价格的攀升进一步加剧了化肥价格上涨。

Figure 3     Monthly data for specific food price indexes from January 2020 to November 2022

图3  2020年1月—2022年11月分类食品价格指数月度数据


3.3 Long-Term Perspective: Uncertainty and New Changes in Global Food Security Landscape

3.3 长期视角:全球粮食安全的不确定性和新变局

The Russia-Ukraine conflict has not only affected the supply, demand, and price trends of global grain, energy, fertilizer, and other commodities in the short term, but its spillover effects also disrupted international trade and led to financial market turmoil, challenging the global economic security with regional imbalances and uncoordinated policies. These effects, therefore, become the “stumbling block” to global economic recovery.


3.3.1 The Russia-Ukraine Conflict Has Changed the Agricultural Product Trade Landscape and Led to the Restructuring of the Global Grain Supply Chain
3.3.1  俄乌冲突改变农产品贸易格局,推动全球粮食供应链重塑

The food and energy crisis currently confronting the world is not just an issue of supply, demand, and prices. The Russia-Ukraine crisis has caused disruptions in global food and fertilizer production and supply chains. International cooperation has been affected, and the international trade landscape is facing restructuring. On the one hand, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has weakened the influence of Russia and Ukraine in the global grain supply chain. On the other hand, grain-producing areas such as India, Australia, Brazil, and Argentina have seized the opportunity to further expand their market shares. In order to eliminate their dependence on Russia for food and energy, some countries are continuing to expand their imports from other sources. For example, the EU has been importing more sunflower oil from countries such as Argentina and South Africa to replace its imports from Russia. Countries in Africa and the Middle East that are highly dependent on Russia and Ukraine for their grain supply also have no choice but to seek other sources of supply. Egypt, the world’s largest wheat importer, previously imported 80% of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine. Amid the grain supply disruption caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, it turned to the United States, Argentina, Canada, and other countries for food import alternatives. The world’s agricultural product trade and supply chain landscape has been evolving continuously. In addition, in order to ensure the future security of the supply chains, countries are engaging in fierce competition around agricultural product supply chains, warehousing, processing, shipping, and other key stages, in order to accelerate the construction of “moats” around national food security.


3.3.2 The Russia-Ukraine Conflict is Changing the Food Production Arrangements of Various Countries, which Promotes Global Food Security Governance
3.3.2 俄乌冲突改变各国粮食生产安排,推动全球粮食安全治理

Although, at present, the output of global agricultural products maintains an overall balance, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has led to the further emergence of an uneven regional distribution landscape. Countries around the world are engaging in geopolitical games around agriculture and food security, leading to profound impacts on the international order. According to incomplete statistics, since the Russia-Ukraine conflict, at least 50 countries, including Russia, Ukraine, India, and Turkey, have implemented export restrictions on agricultural products, while even more countries have taken measures to relax food import restrictions to expand food imports (Table 1). Data from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) from November 2022 shows that the export restrictions imposed on the five agricultural products of wheat, palm oil, corn, sunflower oil, and soybean oil following the Russian-Ukrainian conflict accounted for 90% of the total export restrictions. In the long term, taking active measures to improve food self-sufficiency and reduce dependence on external food sources will be the main methodology of food security governance for various countries. For example, the European Union has relaxed environmental regulations to allow the cultivation of fallow land, which was originally left uncultivated for crop diversity or ecological purposes, and Brazil has increased fertilizer production and wheat production in the Lacerda region.


Table 1 Selected countries (regions) with food export restrictions and measures after the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict

表1 俄乌冲突爆发后部分实施粮食出口限制的国家(地区)及措施情况

Source: Collected from data of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
3.3.3  The Russia-Ukraine Conflict has Increased Systemic Risks in the Global Economy and Undermined the Post-Pandemic Economic Recovery
3.3.3 俄乌冲突增加全球经济系统性风险,影响疫情后经济复苏

The impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict on the global agricultural product trade and food security has resulted in an extensive, long-lasting, and deep impact on the global economy through the spillover, transmission, and amplification effects of production chains and supply chains, increasing the systemic risks of global economic crisis and hindering the post-pandemic global economic recovery.


From an industrial perspective, on the one hand, the shrinking grain, fertilizer, and energy supply from Russia and Ukraine and rising prices are transmitted through upstream and downstream industries along the production chains. Grain planting and production have an obvious cyclical nature, and food security risks are transmitted upstream to farmers and suppliers and downstream to the livestock and farming industries. On the other hand, port congestion and airspace closures have continued to increase pressure on maritime, air, and land transportation. In addition to grain and energy, shortages have also continued to intensify in industries that have long relied on cross-border transportation such as auto parts and semiconductors. From the perspective of regional development, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has exacerbated the regional imbalance between developing and developed countries. In particular, it has placed a heavy burden on the people from most developing countries. In some poor countries in Africa, regional instability further emerged due to the food crises. The Russia-Ukraine conflict has led to the concentrated outbreak of long-dormant development pressures and crises. For example, emerging problems such as debt burdens, which have reached historical highs, and commodity price shocks, will significantly increase the risks of jeopardizing countries’ international balance of payments, as well as causing exchange rate depreciation and debt crisis. Looking at financial market risks, prices have risen as the Russia-Ukraine conflict dragged on, and global inflationary pressure has reached a new peak. The latest simulation forecast from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) shows, that following the given assumptions, global GDP growth may fall by more than 1 percentage point in the year following the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and global inflation may increase by nearly 2.5 percentage points. The global macroeconomic landscape will face more uncertainty and turmoil, and the global economy may be exposed to the risk of contraction.


4 Situation and Challenges Facing China’s Food Security in the Context of the Russia-Ukraine Conflict

4 俄乌冲突局势下中国粮食安全面临的形势与挑战

At present, China has sufficient supplies and reserves of major grains, and grain prices are generally stable and have not been significantly impacted by the inflation in global grain prices. However, China is also facing severe challenges due to the uncertainty and global food security systematic risks brought about by the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis.


4.1 Supply Chain Resilience and Food Security Face Rising Risks Due to External Shocks

4.1 外部冲击下供应链韧性和粮食安全风险上升

As a major global importer of grain, China is highly dependent on foreign countries for soybeans, corn, and other grain varieties, and its import sources are relatively concentrated. Amid the panic purchasing of grain and grain trade restrictions, China is facing more severe pressure on its food reserves. Although China’s supply is currently sufficient for the moment, given the complex international situation, China must be prepared for emergencies, be wary of the possible shortages in grain and oil supply due to possible import limitations in the future, and re-evaluate the risks and difficulties of using the international market to safeguard its food security. On the basis of ensuring food self-sufficiency, China must further expand trade channels, ensure diversified sources of imports, firmly seize the initiative in food imports, build safe and resilient supply chains, and prevent risk spillovers from the global food market.


4.2 The Strategic Struggles between Major Powers and the Geopolitical Tensions Increase the Urgency of Building a Strong Agricultural Country

4.2 大国博弈与地缘局势加剧构建农业强国的紧迫性

From the perspective of agricultural S&T and the development of the seed industry, in the context of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the seed industry, as the core of a country’s agricultural competitiveness, has become a bargaining chip and tool alongside the diplomatic means to engage in geopolitical games. After the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the German company Bayer and other major global seed companies announced that they would stop “all non-essential business” in Russia. As a major grain-producing country, Russia mainly relies on imported seeds for grain production. The imposition of seed industry sanctions on Russia by Western countries will seriously threaten Russia’s food security. This may serve as a strong warning call for China. China’s seed industry also faces the problem of high dependence on imports. Although staple grains are mostly independently bred, China’s per-unit yield levels of corn, soybeans, and other staples lag behind major world agricultural powers, and China still relies on imports to provide seed sources for many agricultural products. We must strengthen strategic resource deployments for the development of key agricultural fields such as the seed industry and “chokepoint” technologies.


Based on the perspective of the grain market and multinational enterprises, at present, the four major grain companies, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Bunge, Cargill, and Louis Dreyfus occupy dominant positions in the global grain market. Most of the production, storage and transportation, trade, and financial processes for major grain-producing regions are in the hands of the four major grain merchants. The Russia-Ukraine conflict has undermined the status of Russia and Ukraine in the global grain market. The center of power in global grain supply has shifted to grain-producing areas such as North America and South America. Leveraging their advantageous market positions in these regions, the four major grain corporations continue to encroach on the agricultural markets of developing countries and push up global grain prices, thus further consolidating and maintaining their hegemony over grain supply. Currently, China lacks transnational companies that enjoy established positions in the market, and lacks the voice to protect its rights during resource distribution, product pricing, and rule formulation in the agricultural and grain markets. In order to realize a coordinated deployment of the entire agricultural supply chain covering production, processing, warehousing, and logistics, we must actively cultivate large international grain companies and transnational agricultural enterprises, promote the upgrade of the entire agricultural supply chain, and build an independent and controllable agricultural supply chain.


4.3 Risks and Uncertainty Entail Higher Requirements for Adjustments to Food Security Policies

4.3 风险不确定性对粮食安全政策调整提出更高要求

The agricultural production chain stands as a complex agricultural product market involving multiple entities, multiple links, and multiple levers. If there is a problem in any part, it will form obvious spillover effects via transmission and amplification along the production chain. Uncertainty caused by external shocks such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict can easily lead to policy and market failures, which in turn trigger turbulence in the grain market. As the crisis may be transmitted through the supply chain, countries should set higher requirements for policy coordination among different industries. At present, market and policy regulation are mostly limited to individual products and links, such as the staples market and meat products market. Greater attention is needed in terms of holistic and systemic regulation and overall coordination for all links throughout the entire chain. Therefore, in order to cope with the volatile international grain market and ensure domestic food security, we must establish a comprehensive macro-regulation system, form a regulation mechanism for the entire production chain, provide policy support for enterprises to build a complete production chain from production to the dining table, and enhance the government’s control over markets.


5 Rethinking China’s Food Security Strategy in the New Era and Targeted Suggestions

5 新时期中国粮食安全战略的再思考与对策建议

The global grain crisis caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict is a sharp reminder to us that the world economy is interconnected and interdependent, but “to forge iron, one must have one’s own strength” (打铁还需自身硬). In the new era, China must make full use of internal and external resources to enhance its food security and consolidate the foundation of the “granary of a great power” (大国粮仓). We must not only attach great importance to building our national strength, but also actively participate in global food security governance. We must not only ensure absolute security regarding food “quantity,” but also pay attention to the improvement of food “quality.” We must not only pay attention to the integration of agricultural resources and the construction of a unified large market, but also promote agricultural S&T innovation and market entity support. Therefore, these methods will pave the way for building a strong agricultural country.


5.1 Strengthen Macro-Regulation and Risk Avoidance Capabilities to Ensure Food Security

5.1  强化粮食安全宏观调控与风险规避能力

The capacity for institutional innovation capabilities and institutional support is the “moat” of the food security fortress. Championing food security is a systematic project. The grain production chain involves numerous links with complex industrial elements, its range of influence and coverage is wide, it involves many units and departments, and it remains a place where different interests are intertwined. We must give full play to the regulatory role of the government, promote the formulation and implementation of relevant laws and regulations, improve the capability of institutional support, establish and improve a multi-level, multi-dimensional, and multi-channel macro-regulation system, build a regulatory mechanism for the entire production chain, and improve the comprehensive support system for food security. First, we must strengthen the scientific development and sustainable utilization of important agricultural resources, promote the innovation of business management models for important basic materials for grain production such as land resources and germplasm resources, and lay the foundation for fostering new market entities and promoting modernized production. Second, we must give full play to the government in regulating grain import trade, grain production structure, grain procurement, storage, and distribution, as well as grain market prices. We should optimize the grain production, supply, and sales structure through macro-regulation, compensate for the failures of market-based mechanisms and areas of weakness or shortage, and improve the grain production chain deployment and market environment. Third, we must strengthen market monitoring and cross-regional transportation, resolutely prevent local supply shortages and sharp rises in market prices, ensure the continuous and uninterrupted supply of grain, make full use of modern information technology to establish a multi-level and comprehensive monitoring and early warning system, as well as a decision-making support system, thereby guarding the bottom line for food security.


5.2 Focus on S&T Independence and Empowerment, as well as New Agricultural Business Forms, to Consolidate Support for Ensuring Food Security

5.2 聚焦科技自立自强和农业新业态发展,巩固粮食安全支撑力

One important lesson from the Russia-Ukraine conflict is the need to form an independent, autonomous, and controllable food supply chain. In this, agricultural S&T innovation is an important source of support and power for food security assurance. In the process of accelerating the transformation of agricultural production from increasing yield to improving quality, China must focus on improving the independence of and empowering agricultural S&T, accelerate agricultural S&T innovation with a focus on the seed industry, improve the compatibility of agricultural technology with the front-line needs of the industry, and implement the strategy of “Storing Grain in Technology” (藏粮于技). We must seize the favorable opportunity presented by the new round of S&T revolution and focus on agricultural mode innovation and new agricultural business forms, in order to embark on a path of agricultural modernization with Chinese characteristics. In this, agricultural digitalization is an important channel to improve food security and quality. Specifically, we must focus on the following three aspects: First, we must give full play to the role of modern technology advancements such as big data, cloud computing, and blockchain as a buffering mechanism against the impact of major emergencies. Focusing on each stage in the supply chain, such as the materials for agricultural production, agricultural production processes and crop growth status monitoring, harvesting, processing, market circulation, and end sales of agricultural products, we must build a smart supply chain system for agriculture and an agricultural S&T innovation platform, promote the construction of comprehensive industrial systems including smart farmland, farms, pastures, orchards, and agricultural workshops, and promote intelligent coordination of agricultural data and digital transformation of the agricultural industry. Second, we must accelerate the transformation of the supply model of agricultural products by using digitized means to promote the precise and efficient matching between agricultural production and the individualized needs of consumers, and promote the upgrade of the agricultural production chain. Third, we must accelerate the designing of agricultural digitization standards, promote the construction of agricultural digitization project facilities, form an internationally competitive digital agricultural system, and raise our status and voice in the international grain market.


5.3 Accelerate the Building of a Unified Domestic Market and Promote the Conversion of Advantageous Agricultural Resource Endowments

5.3 加快构建国内统一大市场,促进农业资源禀赋优势转化

The Russia-Ukraine conflict has restricted the supply of some important agricultural products, which also reminds us that we must focus on leveraging our domestic regional resource advantages and leverage the potential of regional grain production to compensate for the shortages in some agricultural products. We must accelerate the construction of a unified and large domestic market, eliminate regional disparity and “border effects,” promote cross-regional mobility of important agricultural resource elements and the complementarity of regional advantages, drive regional agricultural production to break through the bottleneck of variability constraints (可变性约束), and enhance agricultural production capacity and food supply capacity across the board. Specifically: First, we must promote the cross-regional mobility of key production elements such as pesticides, seeds, fertilizers, agricultural machinery, agricultural production technology, and agricultural S&T talents, optimize the distribution scheme of regional agricultural resources, and improve the basic conditions for regional agricultural production. Second, we must accelerate the cross-regional transportation and storage of finished agricultural products, form an efficient network of regional grain transportation routes, and ensure the efficiency of regional grain transportation. Third, we must establish a unified national agricultural market platform, build a nationwide sharing platform that integrates farming season information, agricultural production conditions, agricultural resources, agricultural product supply and demand trends, and other relevant information, and improve the efficiency of agricultural resource distribution.


5.4  Strike a Balance between Domestic and International Grain Markets and Seize the Initiative in Ensuring Food Security

5.4 平衡利用好国内国际粮食市场,把住粮食安全主动权

The Russia-Ukraine conflict has led to the disruption of important international grain supply chains, which demonstrates the importance of maintaining a stable and controllable international grain supply chain. As a major grain-importing country, China must fully mobilize external market resources, give full play to the overall capabilities of the international market to make adjustments for surpluses and deficiencies and improve consumption diversification, build a diversified import structure, and enhance control over the global grain supply chain by a variety of means such as strengthening the construction of the overseas grain procurement network, focusing on cultivating large-scale grain trading enterprises, and through channels of diplomacy, trade cooperation, and resource exchanges. In particular, we must pay attention to the efficiency of import channels for bulk feed grains such as soybeans and corn, strengthen the ability to import feed grains from alternative sources, alleviate the potential risks caused by reliance on single varieties of imported agricultural products and highly concentrated import sources, and improve the stability and security of the grain import chain by a set of means such as overseas agricultural investment, overseas farmland leasing, overseas supply chain construction, and international shipping line network construction. In addition, we must actively participate in international food project cooperation, including promoting agricultural cooperation in seed technology R&D, land resource development, water resource utilization, as well as consensus-forging on utilization and damage reduction of forestry, animal husbandry, and fishery resources, thereby promoting the coordination of agricultural policies in the international community, facilitating the building of a more fair and equitable grain supply system, and improving grain and agricultural governance capacity at a global level.


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Cite This Page

李春顶 (Li Chunding), 李董林 (Li Donglin), 李娟 (Li Juan). "Global Food Security in the Context of the Russia-Ukraine Conflict and China’s Food Security Policy Options in the New Era [俄乌冲突下全球粮食安全与新时期中国粮食安全政策选择]". CSIS Interpret: China, original work published in World Agriculture [世界农业], June 28, 2023

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