In just over two months, the world food situation has gone from bad to worse. Calls to not panic fell on deaf ears, even as the Ukrainian military put up stiff opposition to the Russian onslaught. If Ukraine somehow wins the war, it will be decades before its economy and agricultural exports return to their previous levels.
Many countries have panicked in the face of global shortages. China banned the export of agricultural chemicals, Indonesia banned the export of palm oil and India banned the export of wheat. The United States has expanded its commitment to maize-based ethanol, raising the mandated amount in gasoline supplies in order to lower the cost of driving. That maize could have been diverted to human consumption, to help substitute for wheat shortages. Malaysia seems ready to lift its mandate to blend palm oil into diesel fuel supplies. That palm oil supply can now re-enter the global food supply chain.
Although many long-term, structural and policy problems have contributed to this crisis, the urgent need at the moment is to focus on improving the short-term situation.