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Ukraine war already impacting food security, U.N. agency warns

By Maytaal Angel

LONDON, March 17 (Reuters) - The war in Ukraine is already resulting in rising food prices and a shortage of staple crops in parts of central Asia, the Middle East and north Africa, the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) said on Thursday.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine last month has severely curtailed shipments from the two countries, which jointly account for around 25% of world wheat exports and 16% of world corn exports, leading to surging prices for the grains on international markets .

These are now trickling down to retail food prices in some of the world's poorest countries, according to IFAD.

"The conflict in Ukraine, already a catastrophe for those directly involved, will also be a tragedy for the world's poorest people living in rural areas. We are already seeing price hikes," said Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of IFAD.

He warned that hikes are set to cause escalating hunger and poverty, with dire implications for global stability.

Wheat prices are currently not far off levels seen during the last food crisis of 2007 and 2008, which sparked protests in many developing nations and is widely regarded as having contributed to the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East.

Russia is also one of the world's largest suppliers of fertiliser - prices of which had already spiked last year, contributing to a 30% increase in world food prices and a related increase in global hunger levels.

To help mitigate the crisis facing poor rural people who produce about a third of the world's food, IFAD said it will focus on interventions like cash transfers, strengthening remittances, setting up savings and loans groups, and providing subsidies for agricultural enterprises. (Reporting by Maytaal Angel; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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