The Biden administration is worried Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will cause famine in parts of the world, White House Council of Economic Advisers Chair Cecilia Rouse told CNBC on Friday.
In an interview on “Closing Bell,” Rouse noted that Russia and Ukraine serve as “the bread basket” for many parts of the world, as the two countries are major producers of wheat, soybeans and other agricultural commodities.
However, the war is complicating efforts to plant and export these key crops. Higher energy and fertilizer prices compound the problem.
“This is a big concern,” Rouse told CNBC. “We’re working with our international aid agencies to ensure there’s some humanitarian aid because we are concerned, particularly in the Middle East, parts of Africa and the Far East … about famines and shortages in those parts of the world.”
The war in Ukraine has further increased food prices after two years of disruptions related to the coronavirus pandemic. The global health crisis is believed to have caused an increase in the number of people globally who face hunger.
The situation in East Africa, in particular, is worrisome because Russia and Ukraine are responsible for about 90% of the wheat imported to the region, according to the United Nations’ World Food Programme.
But even before Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, the UN estimated that roughly 13 million people who live in the Horn of Africa were severely hungry each day. The area is facing a serious drought that has affected crops and killed livestock in countries such as Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, according to the UN.