Global food grain shortage looms as Russia blocks major Ukrainian export

With sea routes closed due to the war between Russia and Ukraine, a representative of the United Nations (UN) World Food Program said nearly four and a half million tonnes of grain were stuck in Ukrainian ports, with far-reaching impacts around the world.

Martin Frick researched Ukraine’s ability to take over food supplies from other countries to ease a global food crisis, according to the dpa news agency report published on Sunday.

“Hunger should not be a weapon,” Frick said.

Ukraine, combined with Russia, has accounted for about 30% of global wheat exports and 20% of corn exports over the past three years, according to the UN.

Ukrainian Port Grain Blockade
Nearly four and a half million tonnes of grain are stuck in Ukrainian ports, a representative of the United Nations World Food Program said in a report on Sunday. Above is a view of the port of Mariupol on April 29 amid ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine.
ANDREY BORODULIN/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

In April, he issued a statement saying that “the conflict has driven up international prices for wheat, maize and vegetable oils” and recorded a rise in food prices in March that was “up 12.6% from compared to February, when it had already reached its highest level since its creation in 1990.”

The organization has previously stated that “the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has created not only an immediate humanitarian crisis, but also a threat to future global food security in the form of rising prices and diminished production”.

According to the UN, countries like Yemen, Egypt and Lebanon depend on Ukrainian grain. In the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia, supply disruptions and price hikes have threatened the food situation, according to the dpa report.

The war will have global repercussions on countries and regions already in crisis, where rising food prices “will hit hard now and in the seasons to come”, said Joyce Msuya, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, in March.

In addition to blocked products, other problems persist around the grain.

Taras Vysotskiy, Ukraine’s deputy agriculture minister, on Saturday accused Russian forces of stealing “several hundred thousand tons” of grain, according to the Radio Free Europe report.

“Today, confirmed facts indicate that several hundred thousand tons of grain in total were extracted from Zaporizhzhya, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” Vysotskiy said.

Thefts have increased over the past two weeks, Ukraine’s Agriculture Minister Mykola Solskiy said.

“I personally hear this from many silo owners in the occupied territory. It’s outright theft. And it happens all over the occupied territory,” Solskiy said.

The Kremlin, according to the report, denied the allegations.

In late March, the Russian Navy blocked access to Ukrainian ports, halting the export of grain from kyiv and preventing 94 ships carrying food from entering the Mediterranean, according to US Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman.

Newsweek contacted the United Nations World Food Program and Russian officials for comment.

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