Ukraine: Host warns of bread shortages following wheat blockade
Russia and Ukraine together produce 30 percent of the world’s wheat supply and — prior to the conflict — Ukraine was seen as the world’s breadbasket, with 4.5 million tonnes of agricultural produce exiting its ports each month. As Moscow’s war on Kyiv hits the three-month mark, it has become evident Putin’s invasion goals go far beyond Eastern Europe. As per Matthias Koch, from Germany’s RedaktionsNetzwerk (RND), “something else, much bigger, is at stake”.
He said: “Obviously, Putin does not only want to harm Ukraine.”
And in that, he is succeeding.
Because of cut-off stocks from Ukrainian ports, which once exported large amounts of cereals as well as cooking oils, the global supply has diminished and prices of alternatives are skyrocketing.
The effects of the soars are widespread, leading to “a threat of famine, unrest, increasing hopelessness – and new waves of refugees” in the Middle East and Africa, Mr Koch said.
He wrote on RND: “The Mediterranean is likely to become the scene of new dramas, as in 2015, when millions of Syrians fled the merciless bombardments by Putin’s air force.
“This time, although Putin is only indirectly providing the impetus, many more people may attempt to flee in desperation.”
Mr Koch’s remarks echo those of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who said the war had worsened food insecurity in poorer nations.
Globally, they are now nearly 30 percent higher than at the same time last year, according to the UN.
Some countries, Mr Guterres warned, could face long-term starvation if Ukraine’s exports are not restored to pre-war levels.
Ukraine LIVE: Nuclear threat as Putin’s Satan-2 would ‘destroy half the continent’
Putin’s war goals go beyond Ukraine: ‘Something else, much bigger, is at stake’, Matthias Koch says
Speaking at a UN security council meeting in New York last Wednesday, Mr Guterres said the Russian war “threatens to tip tens of millions of people over the edge into food insecurity followed by malnutrition, mass hunger and famine”.
The effects of climate change and the coronavirus pandemic, he added, have contributed to the emergency, too.
As per UN figures, around 20 million tonnes of grain are currently stuck in Ukraine from the previous harvest which, if released, could relieve pressure on global markets.
Mr Guterres said the only effective solution to the food crisis was reintroducing Ukraine’s food production, as well as fertiliser produced by both Russia and Belarus, back into global trading.
He stressed: “There is enough food in our world now if we act together. But unless we solve this problem today, we face the spectre of global food shortage in the coming months.”
US secretary of state Antony Blinken, speaking at the meeting, called on the Kremlin to “stop threatening to withhold food and fertiliser exports from countries that criticise your war of aggression”.
Demanding Moscow lift its blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, he said: “The Russian government seems to think that using food as a weapon will help accomplish what its invasion has not – to break the spirit of the Ukrainian people.
“The food supply for millions of Ukrainians and millions more around the world has quite literally been held hostage by the Russian military.”
Russia must lift its blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports to avoid starvation
Earlier that day, Dmitry Medvedev, a former Russian president who now serves as a senior security official, warned Russia would not enable food supplies unless the West eased its sanctions on the country.
Medvedev said Russia was ready to contribute to averting possible famine in some nations but expected “assistance from trading partners, including on international platforms” in return.
He wrote on Telegram: “Otherwise, there’s no logic: on the one hand, insane sanctions are being imposed against us, on the other hand, they are demanding food supplies.
“Things don’t work like that, we’re not idiots.
“Countries importing our wheat and other food products will have a very difficult time without supplies from Russia. And on European and other fields, without our fertilisers, only juicy weeds will grow.”
NATO nuclear weapons mapped [INSIGHT]
Putin ‘bracing for coup’ as generals and FSB agents turn [ANALYSIS]
Global economic collapse warning [REPORT]
‘Staggering milestone’: Six million refugee movements have been registered from Ukraine
Medvedev, who headed the country between 2008 and 2012 and is now deputy chairman of Russia’s security council, added: “We have every opportunity to ensure that other countries have food, and food crises do not happen.
“Just don’t interfere with our work.”
As per Mr Koch, Russia is committing a “monstrous breach of international law”.
He said: “The attacks on the agricultural sector take a back seat to the horror of the indiscriminate shooting of defenceless civilians and the indiscriminate bombing of homes. However, the addition of atrocities must not lead to a blurring of the overall picture.
“The destruction of food and agricultural equipment is a war crime. Such acts were already prohibited in 1949, in the Geneva Convention for the Protection of Civilians.”
And the world, which has hit a “staggering milestone” when it comes to people’s displacement already, cannot afford more damage in that context.
On Monday, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said the number of people forced to flee conflict, violence, human rights violations and persecution had risen to an unprecedented level — over 100 million people — for the first time due to the war in Ukraine along with other deadly conflicts.
The UN high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, said: “One hundred million is a stark figure – sobering and alarming in equal measure.
“This must serve as a wake-up call to resolve and prevent destructive conflicts, end persecution and address the underlying causes that force innocent people to flee their homes.”
The term “displaced person” was first used during World War Two, in which more than 40 million people were forcibly displaced.
Since the start of Russia’s full-scale assault, eight million Ukrainians have been displaced within their home country, along with more than six million refugee movements registered from the war-torn nation.
Yet, as argued by Mr Koch, the impact of Putin’s invasion is far wider-reaching.
In line with Western officials’ calls, he said: “What is urgently needed is a high-pressure global initiative aimed at getting Russia to abandon its blockade of Ukrainian ports.
“If supplies remain blocked, there is a threat of price increases that will lead many families towards starvation within a short time.”
Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg