Maintaining Biofuel Mandates Worsens Global Food Crisis Caused By Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine

Russia’s invading of Ukraine has disrupted both nations’ grain exports. The combined exports of Russia and Ukraine total 26 percent and 16 percent respectively of the world’s global wheat production. It is not clear how much the war will affect grain exports from either country this year.

The world’s markets expect substantial reductions. The Food and Agriculture Organization’s Food Price Index averaged 140.7 points in February 2022. This is an increase of 5.3 points (3.9%) over January and 24.1 points (20.7%) above the level one year ago. This index measures changes in the real and nominal prices of agricultural food like sugar and grains. It has a base of 100 for the time period 2014 to 2016. 

These numbers have risen to an all-time record, surpassing the February 2011 peak of 3.1 percent.

Russia’s invasion in Ukraine could result in the destruction of many millions of tonnes of grain exports around the world. In comparison to Russia’s 4 million tonnes and Ukraine’s 23 million corn exports last year, the Ukrainian exports were just shy of 43 million. On top of these supply uncertainties, increases in what farmers must pay for fertilizer and fuel are also contributing to the global rise in food prices. Remember that similar sharp increases in grain prices between 2008 and 2011 occurred alongside civil unrest around the world, such as those known as the Arab Spring rebellions.

Stopping biofuel mandates all over the globe is one way to make up for grain shortages worldwide and lower food prices. Currently, one-third of the U.S. corn crop—about 125 million tons—is turned into bioethanol that is blended into gasoline. Turning millions of tons of perfectly good food and feed grains into biofuels for automobiles has always been a dubious proposition.

Ariel Brunner (Birdlife International’s EU Policy Director) says, “Because biofuel markets are entirely driven by subsidies,” New Scientist. He added that “we are literally burning quite a bit of food.” To subsidize the rich driving SUVs, you are taking food out of the Cairo slums.

Abolition of mandates for biofuels could drive down prices, supply global demand for feed grains and food. This would help to avoid an impending global food crises.