The European Union is scrambling to alleviate the food-related stresses that the war in Ukraine is causing among its members and elsewhere.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, has proposed an aid package of 500 million euros ($544 million) to help farmers who have been hit by shortages of fertilizer and other supplies. It also suggests authorizing member nations to increase their agricultural subsidies, normally a point of contention in the bloc.
While EU nations aren’t facing any food security issues, many of their farmers depend on fertilizer imported from Russia and animal feed from Ukraine. In addition, mounting fuel prices are a grave concern.
Fertilizer supplies from Russia are also a major concern in North Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East. Egypt and Lebanon are among the countries in the region that consume wheat imports from Ukraine and Russia, and whose farmers depend on Russia as a source of fertilizer.
An EU diplomat told Reuters that “food diplomacy” was needed. Russia is trying to blame Western sanctions for the food and fertilizer crisis.
The EU announced an aid package of 225 million euros ($245 million) for North Africa and the Middle East earlier this month. About half of this will go to Egypt, with other funds going to Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority.