Ukraine and Food security in the Middle East

Publication and talks

Ukraine war's devastating food security impacts on Arab countries

The Ukraine war has been a sudden shock for many many developing countries relying on the imports of food items for Ukraine. Ukraine is particularly important for food security in the developing world, as it produces more than 50% of the world’s supply of sunflower seed, 19% of barely and 14% of food. But it is not only food exports from Ukraine that were affected. Moreover, the resulting price shocks and the uncertainty over Russia’s (another big food player globally) meant even more turmoil. The Middle East is a very good example of the resulting food insecurity risks, since it is naturally arid with rapidly growing populations. 

To better understand the food security impacts of the food sectors in the Middle East, I published a paper (see link below) on the situation in the Middle East. Here are some of the overarching results:


  • Significant implications for countries such as Yemen, Libya, Sudan, to some extent, Egypt and Tunisia. 
  • Other countries have had “manageable pressures” such as Algeria, Jordan and Turkey. 
  • There are fiscal and economic implications beyond the food security sector. For example, food subsidy systems or special programs providing food stamps for the
    most vulnerable have softened some of the impacts of the price
    hikes for vulnerable groups. However, in the Middle East, some
    countries (e.g., Algeria, Libya, Lebanon, and Sudan) have recently
    abandoned food subsidies, or have been unable to continue them due
    to political or economic difficulties. At the same time, the increased
    costs associated with these programs have caused fiscal difficulties,
    particularly in large countries such as Egypt.
  • The food crisis following the Ukraine war has shown the importance of food reserves and storage strategies. 
  • The crisis in the affected countries has been exacerbated by the underlying socio-political vulnerability, and also the impacts of the Covid-19 crisis. Now – 8 months after publication, we can see how Sudan has been suffering even more after the outbreak of the civil war. 
  • It is important to develop regional aid programs, and also regional mechanisms for safeguarding economic and fiscal security in affected countries – e.g., through the help of carbon-rich countries.  

In late 2022, I presented the results of this study (see link below) while discussing the role of the Gulf countries. These countries have been less affected by the Ukraine war in terms of food security. This is due to many reasons including the higher liquidity through additional revenues in the wake of the increase of oil and gas prices. Besides, Gulf countries have been less reliant on Ukraine’s food imports, and have invested in storage, and good trade/investment relations focusing on food.  


Photo by Omar Elsharawy on Unsplash

Caught off guard and beaten: The Ukraine war and food security in the Middle East


The impacts of the war on Ukraine on food security in the Middle East – with Q&A focusing on the role of the Gulf

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