Volodimir Zelensky has warned of a global food crisis if the country cannot free its ports from Russian blockades. Ukraine's president said his country's inability to export food from its ports was creating a crisis in countries that depend on Ukrainian grains such as wheat and barley.
Ukraine produces 80 million tons of grain each year and accounts for 6% of all food calories traded on the international market. The lockdowns are driving global hunger to "famine levels", he told the UN Security Council at a session on Thursday.
After failing to take kyiv, Russian forces are refocusing their efforts on the country's east, including Odessa and Mariupol, which Russia now appears to control after Ukraine withdrew troops and said it had stopped fighting there.
“Russia has blocked almost all ports and, so to speak, all maritime opportunities to export food: our grain, barley, sunflowers and more. Many things," Zelensky said after meeting with Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa in kyiv.
“There will be a crisis in the world. The second crisis after energy, which was caused by Russia. Now it will create a food crisis if we don't unblock the routes to Ukraine, we don't help the countries in Africa, Europe, Asia, which need these food products." Zelensky said that one of the problems had "a military solution," adding: "This is why we turned to our partners with inquiries about the relevant weapons."
At the May 19 meeting of the UN Security Council, Sara Menker, an expert on food insecurity, warned that there were only 10 weeks of wheat supply left in the world. A UN official warned in early May that 4.5 million tons were blocked in Ukrainian ports.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres also warned that the coming months threaten "the specter of global food shortages that could last for years." And, obviously, the first victims of a situation like this are the poorest. Households in emerging economies spend 25% of their budget on food, and in sub-Saharan Africa it reaches up to 40%. In Egypt, bread provides 30% of all calories to the population. According to the WFP study, there are 250 million people who are on the verge of famine and another 1,600 million “at latent risk of being so”. If, as is likely, the war drags on and grain supplies from Russia and Ukraine continue at these levels, the inflation plaguing the world will become less of a problem.
The Ukrainian silos that were not destroyed by the fighting are full of corn and barley. At the end of June the new harvest begins and the farmers have nowhere to store it. They also have fuel and labor shortages, not to mention the risks of carrying out work in the fields under bombardment.