And if the conflict is prolonged, it could threaten the summer wheat harvest, which flows into bread, pasta and packaged food for vast numbers of people, especially in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Food prices have already skyrocketed because of disruptions in the global supply chain, increasing the risk of social unrest in poorer countries.
On Tuesday, the global shipping giant Maersk announced that it would temporarily suspend all shipments to and from Russia by ocean, air and rail, with the exception of food and medicine. Ocean Network Express, Hapag-Lloyd and MSC, the world’s other major ocean carriers, have announced similar suspensions.
“The war just makes the worldwide situation for commodities more dire,” said Christopher F. Graham, a partner at White and Williams.
Jennifer McKeown, the head of global economics service at Capital Economics, said the global economy appeared relatively insulated from the conflict. But she said shortages of materials like palladium and xenon, used in semiconductor and auto production, could add to current difficulties for those industries. Semiconductor shortages have halted production at car plants and other facilities, fueling price increases and weighing on sales.
“That could add to the shortages that we’re already seeing, exacerbate those shortages, and end up causing further damage to global growth,” she said.
International companies are also trying to comply with sweeping financial sanctions and export controls imposed by Europe, the United States and a number of other countries that have clamped down on flows of goods and money in and out of Russia.
In just a few days, Western governments moved to exclude certain Russian banks from using the SWIFT messaging system, limit the Russian central bank’s ability to prop up the ruble, cut off shipments of high-tech goods and freeze the global assets of Russian oligarchs.