Book Review and Application to Ukraine/Russia: “Taste of War” by Collingham, 2012

The agriculture and food supply chain disruptions resulting from the Ukraine/Russia event have become a major concern. [1] A review of the book “Taste of War” reveals insight from the Vikings raiding the UK, Germany expanding its border in World War I, and Russia expanding eastward into Ukraine in the 1930s.

Note [1]: Our focus is on supply chain disruptions, which define the root cause as an “event.”

When researching the background of Ukraine and Russia, I came across the below excerpt that provided some perspective on the underlying influences and potential food fraud problems of domestic, regional, and global food supply chains. Food fraud vulnerabilities are impacted by ag/food production and availability. It is important to review what has happened in history to better understand the likely scenarios of this new event in this region.

Excerpt from: Food Fraud Prevention (Spink, 2019), Springer, Chapter 13 – International Public and Private Response, Page 455:

Sidebar: Horsemeat Through the Ages—Book Review of “Taste of War” (Collingham, 2012)

There are incidents that can shape the intensity with which a region or country is concerned with food and the food supply. In Europe, there is both a broader, more general focus on food as a celebration and yet possibly an underlying extreme concern with basic supply needs. In the USA, there is confidence—or lack of awareness of the vulnerability—of the consistent supply of food.

The book Taste of War reviewed the role of food and food supply in the expansion goals and needs of countries throughout history. Some countries have limited agricultural production due to severe weather or limited land that is suitable for agriculture (Collingham 2012). There are many examples throughout history that include the Vikings raiding the UK, Japan expanding to nearby countries, Germany expanding its border, and Russia expanding eastward in the 1930s.

In the book, some specific examples of public policy shaped by food shortages included that, of the 30 million Russians who died in World War II, 20 million died of starvation. The memories and trauma would still be remembered by the citizens now since the children who grew up during WWII who could remember that famine would be in their early 80s in 2017.

Different countries experienced different levels of food shortages which, naturally, have impacted the short-term and long-term public policymaking. The US population—even during the Great Depression—has not experienced a total loss of food supply or mass starvations.

Reference: Collingham, L. (2012). Taste of War: World War II and the Battle for Food. Penguin.

While the excerpt didn’t go into detail, the “Taste of War” book went into great detail about the national-level psychological trauma of famine and starvation. The stories across Europe include a study of the slowed growth of children in the Netherlands due to poor and low nutrition. The book also recounted the deep psychological trauma of watching the slow death from starvation. The impact on Russia was incredibly intense since 20 million of the 30 million WWII deaths were non-conflict and starvation of the population.

After reviewing that excerpt, I was curious how “Taste of War” covered parts of Ukraine’s history. I went back to the book and found several references to ag/food production. This additional research was conducted to gain insight into Ukraine’s ag/food production potential to recover.

Excerpts from “Taste of War” regarding Ukraine:

“[Between World War I and World War II] Hitler had for years been expounding the idea that ‘the occupation of the Ukraine would liberate [Germany] from every economic worry.’ Already in 1939, he told League of Nations High Commissioner for the city of Danzig, ‘I need Ukraine, so that no one is able to starve us again, like the last war [World War I].’ But most of Hitler’s advisors were under no illusions about the difficulties involved in exploiting Soviet resources. Virtually all of the Ukraine’s grain went to feed the vastly expanded cities of the Soviet Union.”

So, control of  Ukraine has historically been a focus of powerful neighbors for food supply and national security. Also, for nearly 100 years, Ukraine has been a critical food resource for Russia/Soviet Union.

Another excerpt framed the ag/food-based relationship with Ukraine and Russia/Soviet Union:

“As the Wehrmacht [Hitler’s military] entered the Ukraine, many of the ragged peasants welcomed the Germans as liberators who came to free them from the tyranny of Soviet rule, and took them into their homes, gave them lodging and treated the wounded. In the early 1930s, Stalin had imposed collectivization on the Ukraine, abolishing the private ownership of land and forcing peasants to work on state-run farms formed out of the consolidation of their private plots. Seven million Ukrainians had died in the famine which accompanied this process. Many took the opportunity of the German invasion to indulge in an orgy of destruction, breaking apart combine harvesters and tractors in a Luddite frenzy of rage against the forced collectivization. The SicherheittsDienste [Hitler’s intelligence agency] was astonished by the Ukrainians’ faith in the German occupier, and later a leading Ukrainian nationalist, Adrij Melnyk, complained that Germany had missed a valuable opportunity. He asserted that the Ukrainians had been ‘ready to bear even a heavy burden if they had been certain that their right to life and national development would have been respected.”

There are many stress points related to ag/food in Ukraine, by the neighboring countries, and for the Ukraine citizens.

The Ukraine region has been and will continue to be a key ag/food producer for itself, the neighboring countries, Europe, and in support of the global food supply chain. Many social and political factors will play a part in the ag/food production return. All of these variables create a complex supply chain disruption that is uncertain. The food fraud vulnerability will continue to evolve. The food fraud prevention strategies will need to focus on the current ‘assurance of supply’ and the longer-term shifts in the food supply, transportation networks, and global food security trends.

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