Wheat, consumed daily by billions of people around the world in bread and other flour-based foods, is a staple food, making modern record prices for cereals a global problem.

Low rainfall or droughts in major producing countries have already raised concerns before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February led to market growth.

Since then, Ukraine, which has been exporting wheat, has struggled to sell and sow its crops, putting consumers in poor countries at risk of poverty and even hunger.

Sebastian Abyss, head of the Demeter Agricultural Analysis Center in Paris and an expert at the Institute for International and Strategic Relations, explains what is at stake:

– Can wheat be replaced by something else? –

“It’s very difficult. Wheat is the most important cereal for global food security: it is eaten by billions of people in the form of bread, flour or semolina.

“Maize is grown in larger quantities, but is mainly used for animal feed or for industrial purposes.

“Apart from its nutritional qualities, wheat is a very social and democratic product that allows people to make inexpensive food – and it is often subsidized.”

– But in some countries, such as Lebanon or Yemen, does the price put it out of reach for consumers? –

“Yes, because of the shortage and because you can’t produce it anywhere. It can be grown in temperate climates, but there are only a dozen countries that produce a lot and can export, in particular Russia, Ukraine, USA, Australia.

“In recent years, the United States has produced less and less because they are switching to corn and soybeans. After the Soviet period, the two countries that broke through were Ukraine and Russia.

“In recent years, Ukraine accounted for 12-13 percent of world exports.”

– Lack of Ukrainian production – the reason for the current situation? –

“At the same time, we have a terrible geopolitical situation with shaky multilateralism, to which we must add alarming climate events, with droughts in the southern Mediterranean basin, unrest in the United States and Europe.

“India, which last year had an exceptional harvest and stocks that allowed it to sell more in the markets, has experienced a terrible drought and will not be able to export.

“Prices that were high before the war are now rising: on Monday, wheat on the Euronext market reached 440 euros ($ 463) per tonne.”

– This happened after India announced that it would no longer export wheat. Why? –

“India has announced a rather ambitious export target of 10 million tonnes. Prior to the export ban, it sold about 3-3.5 million tons, so one question is whether it will meet its obligations.

“The situation is tense because there is no country that could put more on the export market than usual. Maybe Russia will be if there is a good harvest.

“But even if the war ends, Ukrainian production and exports will not resume immediately.”

– Have we reached the peak of the crisis ahead of the harvest in the US and Europe this summer?

“We have real long-term risks. We have not yet seen all the shocks, because in the world markets for the last two months we have seen the implementation of contracts signed before the Russian invasion. Now we are entering a difficult part. ”

– What about the shares? –

“We have about 270 million tons of wheat for a planet that consumes about 800 million tons a year. About half is accounted for by China, which has annual consumption in reserve. With the exception of China, grain stocks are at their lowest levels in 25 years.

“We need international solidarity and cooperation. We cannot leave countries to fight for food security on their own, but at the same time you may not be surprised that some countries take care of themselves in the first place.

“We need to produce wherever we can produce, especially in Africa. But this requires peace and security. ”

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