War between Ukraine and Russia has led to rising wheat prices (Picture: Keith Ewing/Flickr)

The forever war in Ukraine looks set to take casualties far beyond its borders after last week’s collapse of the United Nations grain deal. The agreement enabled both Ukraine and Russia to send giant cargo ships through heavily targeted waters so that food exports were maintained.

It led to a much needed fall in grain prices over the past 12 months. But wheat prices shot up again last week after both Russia and Ukraine announced that they would no longer guarantee safe passage for shipping across the Black Sea.

The deal broke down shortly after an attack on the Crimea bridge to southern Russia, which president Putin blamed on Ukraine. Now both countries are adding still more mines to a sea already full of them.

The Black Sea grain deal enabled the UN’s World Food Programme to ship more than 725,000 tonnes of wheat from Ukraine to countries facing acute hunger, including Ethiopia, Yemen and Afghanistan. But more than half the total grain shipped under the deal was corn.

And, of the nearly 33 million tonnes exported, the biggest amount went to China, then Spain and Turkey. That means international grain prices are now spiralling.

Bulk price rises will soon turn into higher prices in shops and markets. That will hit the Global South particularly hard, but the impact will be felt everywhere.

Countries that depend heavily on Ukraine’s supplies will likely be most affected. Before the war Lebanon received nearly three-quarters of its grain from Ukraine, while Pakistan, Libya and Ethiopia are also very heavily dependent.

Grain price rises not only affect foodstuffs directly based on it. They also drive up the price of meat and poultry, as grain is often used as animal feed. And, as people try to replace expensive foods with other, cheaper staples, their price also rises.

India announced an export ban on non-basmati white rice last week, citing heavy rain that has blighted many crops. Every price rise will take food off the plates of the poorest.

The fast-rising price of basic food illustrates one-way war, imperialism and climate change are combining to put millions of lives at risk.

Yet despite the threat of global hunger, the West is diverting ever-greater resources into the inter-imperialist proxy war with Russia in Ukraine.

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