“it is actually the agricultural aspects of the pact with China about which the world should be most concerned.
The importance of Ukraine’s remarkably fertile soil for global grain supply has gained some attention, amid concerns the conflict will lead to sharp price increases. But the reality is Russia’s control of Ukrainian grain shipments will likely have far greater consequences.
After just one day of the invasion, Russia effectively controlled nearly a third of the world’s wheat exports, three quarters of the world’s sunflower oil exports, and substantial amounts of barley, soy and other grain supply chains. Furthermore, Ukraine alone accounts for 16 percent of the world’s corn exports and has been one of the fastest growing corn producers — a dynamic particularly critical to meeting China’s rapidly growing demand for corn. Importantly, while hydrocarbon production can be immediately surged in different places to meet shifts in requirements, grain production cannot be surged in the same way, and even a major expansion cannot make up for the sheer volume of agricultural output that Russia now controls either directly or indirectly.
Most of the focus has rightly been on the invasion’s impact on people in Ukraine’s most populous cities — but in the background, Russia is completing a hostile takeover of the country’s grain-rich regions and their associated transportation infrastructure. Critically, however, Russia does not even need to fully control Ukraine’s agricultural lands to weaponize the food supply chains they anchor.
As the following map shows, there are only two points of maritime access that Russia needs to dominate in order to be in control of Ukrainian grain shipments: the Kerch Strait that connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Azov, and the 17 ports in and around Odessa.”