A farmer harvests wheat in a war-damaged field near Kramatorsk on July 7, 2022.
Russia controls 22% of Ukrainian farmland and war threatens expected harvests this summer, which could further aggravate the global food crisis, NASA researchers believe.
The breadbasket of the world is at war and we are in the early stages of a food crisis that is likely to affect every country and every person in the world in some way, says Inbal Becker-Reshef, Program Director on the US Space Agency's crops.
According to satellite images taken on June 13 by the European Space Agency's Sentinel-2 mission and analyzed by the Program , 22% of Ukraine's agricultural land is under Russian control in the east and south of the country.
This includes 28% of winter crops (wheat, barley, rye) and 18% of summer crops (corn and sunflower seeds), NASA says in its memo.
Before the start of the Russian offensive on February 24, Ukraine supplied 46% of the world's sunflower oil harvest, 9% of wheat exports, 17% of barley and 12% corn, according to US Department of Agriculture data.
Ukrainian wheat fields are about to yield a first harvest in 2022, but this one has zero anywhere to go, the ports being blocked by mines or by the Russian army.
The period between July and October is particularly important for Ukrainian farmers, who harvest winter cereals and those planted in spring. Winter grains to be harvested next year must also be planted before November.
But farmers are distraught amid soaring fuel and fertilizer prices , and the threat of bombardments on their fields.
According to estimates by the main association of producers and exporters of Ukraine, harvests are expected to fall by 40 % for wheat and 30% for corn.
Ukraine is also under a Russian naval blockade and cannot export its crops by boat, observes Sergueï Skakoune, researcher at NASA and the University of Maryland.
The closure of the Sea of Azov and the blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports have deprived markets of more of 25 million tons of seeds (all products combined), fueling soaring prices and the threat of famine for millions of people around the world.
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