How Is War Affecting Your Grocery Bill?

The Daily strives to reveal a new idea in each episode. Below, we share additional reporting from New York Times Brazil Bureau Chief Jack Nicas on some of the ideas for Tuesday show.

Everything was already a mess before the war started.

Over the past few years, the combined shocks of the coronavirus and the climate crisis have dismantled the global supply chain. With ships stuck at sea, overwhelmed warehouses and driverless trucks, Americans who had grown accustomed to getting their goods on demand were suddenly forced to practice a maddeningly archaic virtue: patience.

Everyone hoped it would be over soon — that Target shelves would be restocked, timely Amazon Prime deliveries would resume, and groceries would stop being so expensive. Then came the bad news: the war in Ukraine added a new strain to the highly complex and interconnected global supply chain. And as you heard on Tuesday, there is no end in sight.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and global sanctions on Moscow have impacted logistics and supply chains, creating bottlenecks in the transportation of goods and goods and threatening further economic hardship for countries and companies close to the conflict zone.

Shipping companies, marine insurance officials and industry analysts say the war, combined with sanctions-fueled uncertainty, is causing ship backups in some ports and could lead to longer delays in shipments , especially in Europe.

And then there are food prices, which have risen to their highest level in more than a decade, largely due to the pandemic’s supply chain mess, according to a recent United Nations report. A crucial part of the world’s wheat, corn and barley is stuck in Russia and Ukraine because of the war, while an even larger part of the world’s fertilizer is stuck in Russia and Belarus. The result is that world food and fertilizer prices are skyrocketing. Since the invasion, prices for wheat have risen by 21%, barley by 33% and some fertilizers by 40%.

The upheaval is compounded by major challenges that were already raising prices and tightening supplies, including the pandemic, transportation constraints, high energy costs and recent droughts, floods and fires.

Now economists, aid organizations and government officials are warning of the repercussions: an increase in world hunger.

The impending catastrophe lays bare the consequences of a major war in the modern age of globalization. Prices for food, fertilizers, oil, gas and even metals like aluminum, nickel and palladium are all rising rapidly – ​​and experts expect worse as the effects unleash.

“Ukraine has only made more disaster worse than disaster,” said David M. Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme, the United Nations agency that feeds 125 million people a day. “There is no precedent even close to this since World War II.”

Ukrainian farms are about to miss critical planting and harvesting seasons. Fertilizer factories in Europe are drastically reducing production due to high energy prices. Farmers from Brazil to Texas are cutting fertilizers, threatening the size of future crops.

Around the world, the result will be even higher grocery bills. In February, food prices in the United States had already risen 8.6% from a year earlier, the biggest increase in 40 years, according to government data. Economists expect the war to further inflate these prices.

For those living on the brink of food insecurity, the latest price spike could push many over the edge. After remaining virtually stable for five years, hunger has increased by around 18% during the pandemic to affect between 720 and 811 million people. This month, the United Nations said the impact of war on the global food market alone could lead to starvation between 7.6 and 13.1 million more people.

While virtually every country will face higher prices, some places may struggle to find enough food. Rising prices and hunger also present a potential new dimension to the global view of war. Could they further fuel anger against Russia and calls for intervention? Or would the frustration be targeted at Western sanctions that help trap food and fertilizer?

The reality is that the “efficient” and interconnected supply chain has always been precarious. And it will continue to be subject to increasingly devastating shocks brought about by the climate crisis. Today, governments around the world are wondering how to create resilience in the face of the calamities to come. The answer, however, may require asking how to completely redesign the system.

We have some exciting news: Still Processing, our cultural podcast, returns on April 14.

The show is going to sound a little different this season. Podcast co-host Jenna Wortham is on leave, so Wesley Morris is going to have solo hosting duties for most of the spring. He’ll be joined by a stellar cast of guests, including Daphne Brooks to talk pop culture hierarchies, Hanif Abdurraqib to examine TV’s theme songs (and that polarizing “skip intro” button), and Bill Simmons on this happens when athletes try to act.

Listen to the trailer to get a taste of this season – and to find out what Jenna has been up to (spoiler alert: black holes!). Look out for new episodes on Thursday.


Monday: Behind a federal judge’s ruling that Donald J. Trump most likely committed a crime while trying to prevent certification of the 2020 election.

Tuesday: How the war in Ukraine is creating a food crisis across the world.

Wednesday: Outrage is growing over the atrocities committed in Bucha, Ukraine. But holding perpetrators to account can be a complex task.