The crisis in Crimea could cause instability and unrest in the Middle East and North Africa by causing a spike in global food prices, researchers from Anglia Ruskin University have warned.
Experts from the university’s Global Sustainability Institute (GSI) have said that the fallout from Crimea’s vote to join Russia could have much wider implications.
Ukraine had been expected to become the world’s third largest exporter of grain in 2014, but the recent unrest has caused observers to question whether the country will be able to deliver.
Though Ukraine’s exports have not been discernibly affected so far, global wheat prices have increased by 13% since the beginning of March, as the mere threat of disruption has caused uncertainty.
As the price of wheat commodity futures rises, the researchers warn that vulnerable countries that have seen recent harvests badly hit by severe weather – possibly as an impact of global warming – could be left exposed to price surges.
“The threat for the coming year is that, should global crop production be impacted by severe weather, as we have seen increasingly in recent years, the impact of the crisis in Ukraine could result in a major supply demand imbalance in global food trade”, said Dr Aled Jones, director of GSI.
“This would trigger major volatility in the price of food. If this happened, already fragile countries could further destabilise.”
Experts have previously suggested that surges in food prices in 2008 and 2011 played a role in instigating the unrest across North Africa and the Middle East that has come to be known as the Arab spring.
These price fluctuations were partly caused by droughts that, experts say, were made more severe by climate change.
In a recent report, the US Defence Department also suggested that climate instability in the future could threaten global security.
It said that rising food costs and competition for water and energy resources could act as “threat multipliers”, increasing poverty, political instability, and social tensions – “conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.”