The United Nations has warned that Moscow’s so-called special military operation in Ukraine could soon cause a global food crisis that may last for years. 

Speaking at a UN meeting in New York on global food security, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on May 18 that the war had worsened food insecurity in poorer nations due to rising prices.

According to him, some countries could face long-term famines if Ukraine's exports are not restored to pre-war levels.

The conflict has reportedly cut off supplies from Ukraine's ports, which once exported vast amounts of cooking oil as well as cereals such as maize and wheat.

This has reduced the global supply and caused the price of alternatives to soar. Global food prices are almost 30% higher than the same time last year, according to the UN.

The conflict - combined with the effects of climate change and the pandemic - "threatens to tip tens of millions of people over the edge into food insecurity followed by malnutrition, mass hunger and famine," Mr. Guterres added.

According to him, global hunger levels are at a new high.  In just two years, the number of severely food insecure people has doubled, from 135 million pre-pandemic to 276 million today, UN secretary-general said.

More than half a million people are reportedly living in famine conditions – an increase of more than 500 percent since 2016, the UN noted.

“If we do not feed people, we feed conflict,” Mr. Guterres said.