World food prices have reached unprecedented heights this year after Russia's invasion of Ukraine reduced exports of grain and chemical fertilizers from both countries.

Drought, heat waves and floods caused by climate change have reduced crops in many parts of the world, Reuters reports.

Wheat prices peaked at a 14-year high in March, and corn prices peaked, according to a report by the International Group of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES) released on Friday.

This has made basic foodstuffs more expensive and more difficult to find for people in many countries, especially the poorest.

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Climate change, poverty and conflict are now combining to create "endemic and widespread" risks to global food security.

This means that high food prices could become another new "normality" if decisive action is not taken by politicians, according to IPES.

According to experts, the necessary measures include not only combating harmful emissions to curb climate change, but also fighting speculation, debt relief, reducing the use of chemical fertilizers, reforming global trade and increasing national grain reserves.

If all this is ignored, the world will stand up as a "sleepwalker through catastrophic and systemic food crises", experts warn

Why are food prices so high?

Russia and Ukraine provide about 30 percent of global wheat exports, but the flow has stopped since the start of the war.

And while national stocks consumed where they are produced remain relatively high, declining exports from the two warring countries have sparked competition for the rest of the grain on the market and raised prices, said Bridget Hugh of the US Climate and Security Center.

Poor countries have been particularly affected.

About 40 per cent of the wheat imported into Africa comes from Ukraine and Russia, and bread prices in Lebanon have already jumped by 70 per cent, according to IPES.

However, disrupted exports are not the only reason for the rise in prices, which has already affected corn, rice and soybeans, as buyers have sought alternatives to wheat.

Encouraged by the conflict, financial speculators rushed to invest in grain futures, which automatically and completely artificially inflated prices and created uncertainty in the markets, G-7 finance ministers recently complained.

Since the last food crisis in 2007-2008, 2011-2012, "governments have failed to curb excessive speculation and ensure transparency in food stocks and commodity markets," said Jennifer Clapp of the University of Waterloo in Canada.

The problem requires immediate action if the world is to avoid new crises in the coming years under the pressure of climate change, conflict and other threats, she added.

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Is it possible to increase yields to guarantee supplies?

Some producer countries have already announced they are increasing sown areas, and India has said it will export more to meet demand, although the heat wave it is subject to could reduce yields, London's Energy and Climate Observatory has warned. .

However, efforts to increase yields are facing a shortage of fertilizers.

Russia and Belarus produce about 40 percent of the agricultural use of potassium carbonate, or potash, but the war cut off its exports.

The effects of climate change, from droughts and heat waves to floods and new pests, are making it difficult for farmers in many parts of the world, and the problem will only get worse if the planet continues to warm.

And the available land for planting more wheat, corn and rice is limited.

The increase in agricultural land, especially in countries such as Brazil, often comes at the expense of forests, which are extremely important in keeping the climate stable.

With limited land supply and increased pressure on those trying to grow food, protect nature, install renewable energy and store carbon emissions, agricultural land could become the strategic global asset of this century, says Tim Benton. , Director of the Environment and Society Program at Chatham House.

The desire to control much of Ukraine's agricultural land, and with it the global food market, may be one of the reasons for Russia's invasion of the country, he said.

What needs to be done to keep food available?

As a large part of the grain produced goes to feed livestock, if people start consuming less meat and milk, this will dramatically increase grain stocks, said Pierre-Marie Aubert of the French Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations.

The global shortage of cereals in export markets this year is expected to be around 20-25 million tons.

But if only Europeans reduce their consumption of animal products by 10 percent, they will reduce the demand for grain by 18-19 million tons, the expert said.

Another possible approach is to encourage grain-importing countries to grow more food on their own.

And globally, it is necessary to sow a greater variety of crops to reduce dependence on several major grain types and several major exporters.

Policy changes, such as the recently concluded Free Trade Pact in Africa, could allow some poorer countries to reduce their dependence on distant producers and insecure supply chains, said Sytembile Mwamakamba of the Food and Agriculture Group. Economy and Natural Resources (FANRPAN).

In addition, investing in climate-friendly agriculture would protect crops and enable poor countries to reduce their debts and better manage food market fluctuations.

What will happen if food prices continue to rise?

Rising world market prices are making it harder for aid agencies to provide grain for hungry people in countries suffering from chronic conflicts, such as Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Syria.

The international system was suffocating from growing needs and inadequate funding even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, and now rising prices mean even less grain can be provided, said Gernot Laganda, director of the World Food Program. UN on Climate Change and Risk Reduction.

"It has never been as bad as it is now," he told Reuters.

Laganda fears that by adding climate change to current threats, rising food prices are unlikely to be contained.

An even worse scenario is for expensive food to provoke political unrest and "eat" government funds, while also failing efforts to limit climate change, plunging the world into a vicious circle of growing poverty, unrest and hunger, he warned.

According to Benton of Chatham House, Russia's war in Ukraine could lead to irreversible changes in global food prices.

"The end of cheap and easily accessible food is coming. For many people, this will largely be the new reality," he said.