That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:
During wartime, basic human needs become more pressing, most of all food. For instance, Ukraine supplies much of the world’s grain, including to many of the world’s poorer countries. The largest importers of Ukrainian grain are Egypt, Turkey, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Pakistan, and in percentage terms Yemen, Libya and Lebanon are especially dependent. To the extent the conflict and sanctions disrupt Russia as well, Russia is not only a major grain exporter but also the largest exporter of fertilizer.
With so much of Ukraine under siege, these supplies are a mix of blockaded or endangered, thereby creating hunger and malnutrition risk for grain importers.
Increasing the productivity of agriculture, especially in poorer countries, now should be a higher priority. When food supply from one source such as Ukraine is shut off, poorer nations should have other supply options. The Green Revolution has been wonderful for India and Pakistan by increasing crop yields — but it turns much more agricultural innovation is necessary…
In a world at peace, public health interventions yield high returns, and they probably still will in wartime. But their relative benefits, compared to other interventions, may diminish. Saving lives with medicine is worthwhile, but many medicines are expensive. If lives can be saved by the mere shipment and trade of food, and at a profit at that, that will be preferred over saving lives with medicine.
Migration, or the discovery and reallocation of talent, also becomes a higher priority in wartime. Do read the whole thing.