Around the middle of June, about 100 states and international organizations held a two-day peace summit at the picturesque Lake Geneva resort in Switzerland to call for an end to the two-year conflict in Ukraine.

Three issues were discussed – nuclear power and weapons, prisoners and deportees, and food security.

Russia, China, and other states did not participate in the peace summit, and not all states that participated in the peace conference signed the joint communique.

One of the highlights of the conference was the protection of merchant ships in ports and along the route to protect the transportation of grains, cereals, and other agricultural products from the conflict areas to starving people in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

Russia and Ukraine are the world’s largest wheat, barley, and maize suppliers, accounting for more than 30 percent of global supply.

The two-year conflict in Ukraine, as well as the sanctions imposed on Russia, have significantly disrupted the global food supply.

This disruption has led to a decrease in the availability of key food commodities, such as wheat, barley, and maize, creating food insecurity in many regions.

For instance, India, a major rice trader, has to suspend its rice exports, while the Southeast Asian rice dealers in Thailand and Vietnam have increased rice prices.

As a result, many states, including the Philippines, the world’s biggest importer, experienced rising prices for the staple.

The global food supply has also been worsened by troubles in the Red Sea and by climate change brought by El Niño, which has dried up farmlands.

According to estimates made by the United Nations World Food Program, about 785 million people across the globe are suffering from chronic hunger.

In 2023, another 100 million was added due to conflicts and climate change.

In Asia alone, 418 million people were suffering from malnutrition due to the food crisis.

However, information from the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) said there should be no food shortage because there is enough for everyone.

The real problem is the soaring prices due to manipulation and speculation on grains and other commodities.

Large corporations from the United States and Europe are controlling supplies and manipulating prices for bigger profit, putting into disadvantage third world economies.

Barriers to the established trade flow, which might be politically motivated, ruin the food market, creating chaos and increasing inflationary pressure.

What worsens the situation are the trade sanctions imposed on Moscow as well as the seizure of vessels loaded with wheat and fertilizers.

Western profiteers also took advantage of the Black Sea Grain Initiative to re-sell Ukrainian wheat at a price, paying little to Ukraine farmers suffering from the conflict.

In January this year, the US Congress passed a law prohibiting the importation of food products from Russia. Russia’s share in global food exports is about 20 percent.

This could lead to a potential food crisis since countries in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East would be forced to import from the US and Western states at a higher price.

Countries dependent on food imports would not be given a choice in sourcing their food products.

The Philippines is not greatly affected because it imports rice from Thailand and Vietnam. However, there could be some effects because prices tend to go up due to global supply problems.

Besides price and supply manipulation, food import-dependent countries could rely on genetically modified hybrid grain varieties.

In the Philippines, the agriculture department has been pushing for the GMO “Golden Rice”.

Local markets are flooded by cheap genetically modified food products.

Inflationary pressures and dependence on imports have led the government to accept “Golden Rice”.

US and Western agro-industrial companies have been using the conflict in Ukraine to control the global food market.

The Philippines should call for “fair rules of the game” at the food and fertilizer market. The Philippines should defend its right, in its relations with the US and European Union, to access food and agricultural products without paying attention to the political aspect.