What is driving the food crisis?

Mike Anthony asks “Why are all the rising prices and shortages blamed on the war in Ukraine? Why aren’t we importing more from America and Canada?” (Letters August 24th)

Unfortunately, we have a very unhealthy reliance on imports from Ukraine and Russia. Together, Russia and Ukraine export nearly a third of the world’s wheat and barley, more than 70 per cent of its sunflower oil and are big suppliers of corn. Russia is the top global fertiliser producer. The loss of these imports is increasing global prices.

What we urgently need to do is reduce our reliance on imports by growing more of our own food. We currently use 17.5m hectares of land in the UK for agriculture but still import roughly half of our food. Most of the land is used to grow food for livestock. George Monbiot has calculated that if we changed to a vegan diet we would only need 3m hectares. Any reduction in our meat usage will be a step in the right direction. 

But Mike is right. The war is not the only cause of rising food prices. In this country, the drought and extreme temperatures have damaged many crops. But other countries have had it far worse. “Heatflation” is increasing the price of food.


Drought in the Horn of Africa has seen the driest conditions and hottest temperatures since satellite record-keeping began. In Chad, 95% of Lake Chad has disappeared. Around the world, major rivers such as the Loire, Danube, Rhine, Yangtze, and Colorado are drying up. Italy has declared a state of emergency. The current drought in China may end up as the worst in recorded history, but it barely gets a mention in the media. 

Politicians have ignored the warnings of climate scientists for four decades and continue to increase the production of fossil fuels. It is no surprise that our planet is suffering and we are now struggling to feed ourselves. We need an emergency worldwide plan to slash our emissions now. 

Mike Anthony’s letter

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