Russian forces now occupy about 22 percent of Ukraine’s farmland since the February 24 invasion, impacting one of the major suppliers to global grain and edible oils markets, NASA said Thursday.
Satellite data analyzed by scientists at the US space agency shows that Russia’s occupation of eastern and southern Ukraine gives it control of land that produces 28 percent of the country’s winter crops, mainly wheat, canola, barley, and rye, and 18 percent of summer crops, mostly maize and sunflower.
The war’s disruption of harvesting and planting — including farmers fleeing the war, the lack of labor and fields pockmarked by shelling — could have a heavy impact on global food supplies, NASA scientists said.
“The world’s breadbasket is at war,” said Inbal Becker-Reshef, director of NASA’s Harvest program, which uses US and European satellite data to study global food production.
According to US data, before the war Ukraine supplied 46 percent of the sunflower oil traded on global markets, nine percent of the wheat, 17 percent of the barley, and 12 percent of maize.
Russia’s invasion has blocked exports of food from Odessa, the main port on the Black Sea, and destroyed storage and transport infrastructure in some areas.
That means farmers in the entire country, but especially in occupied areas, have less options for getting their output into storage and to markets.
And it also threatens the planting of winter crops in the fall.
“We’re in the beginning stages of a rolling food crisis that will likely affect every country and person on Earth in some way,” said Becker-Reshef.