Policies leading to a war on fossil fuels, as well as the Russian invasion of Ukraine, will contribute to a food crisis, according to Robert Unanue, president and CEO of Goya Foods.
“We are on the precipice of food shortage,” he said.
However, the fourfold surge in fertilizer prices will affect African and European countries more severely than the United States because the latter is currently more independent with regard to food, he said.
Another big problem, he said, is that it's planting season in southeastern Ukraine and people are fighting a war.
“There's 2.5 million acres of sunflowers to be planted,” he said.
Farmers there will be planting less and yielding less, because of the rising costs and the lack of good yield.
“It's going to send food prices spiraling,” Unanue said.
Both Ukraine and Russia are major producers of the world’s wheat and corn. Together they account for about 29 percent of global wheat exports, 19 percent of global corn supply, and 80 percent of global sunflower oil exports.
“That will landlock Ukraine and prevent them from exporting,” he said.
The biggest component of food cost is transportation, and the current war on fossil fuels has made the United States no longer oil independent.
“Shipping in a pipeline is free," Unanue said. "But when you put it on a ship, with rates 10 times where they were two years ago, we are buying oil at retail.”
The CEO gave an example of coconut water, which his company imports from Thailand in bulk, to illustrate the impact of the surge in transportation costs.
A case of coconut water used to cost $1.44, but now the cost per case has increased to $15 due to rising transportation expenditure.
Goya’s Humanitarian Mission
He said the ex-green berets are very courageous men, having gone into 40 cities in Ukraine with food and medicine.
“We're there with nourishing the body, but we also want to nourish the soul,” he said of the company’s creed. “God created humanity. But humanity has created the way to destroy itself—nuclear, chemical, biological. Now we're using food as a weapon. We have to move closer to God.
Fires at Food Processing Facilities
Unanue said such incidents often occur because of having deferred preventive maintenance of these facilities during the pandemic. When lockdowns were imposed on most companies and businesses, the food industry kept working.
Since then, Goya has doubled its capacity and its facilities operate around the clock, but “any factory needs to stop for maintenance at least once a year,” he said, noting that Goya’s plants stop twice a year for maintenance.