Monday, 4 July, 2022

UN urges Ukraine grain release, WB pledges extra $12bn

UNITED NATIONS: The UN warned Wednesday that a growing global food crisis could last years if it goes unchecked, as the World Bank announced an additional $12 billion in funding to mitigate its "devastating effects."

Food insecurity is soaring due to warming temperatures, the coronavirus pandemic and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which has led to critical shortages of grains and fertilizer, reports AFP.

At a major United Nations meeting in New York on global food security, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the war "threatens to tip tens of millions of people over the edge into food insecurity."

He said what could follow would be "malnutrition, mass hunger and famine, in a crisis that could last for years," as he and others urged Russia to release Ukrainian grain exports.

Russia and Ukraine alone produce 30 percent of the global wheat supply.

Moscow's invasion of Ukraine and international economic sanctions on Russia have disrupted supplies of fertilizer, wheat and other commodities from both countries, pushing up prices for food and fuel, especially in developing nations.

Before the invasion in February, Ukraine was seen as the world's bread basket, exporting 4.5 million tonnes of agricultural produce per month through its ports -- 12 percent of the planet's wheat, 15 percent of its corn and half of its sunflower oil.

But with the ports of Odessa, Chornomorsk and others cut off from the world by Russian warships, the supply can only travel on congested land routes that are far less efficient.

"Let's be clear: there is no effective solution to the food crisis without reintegrating Ukraine's food production," Guterres said. "Russia must permit the safe and secure export of grain stored in Ukrainian ports."

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who chaired the summit, and World Food Programme head David Beasley echoed the call. "The world is on fire. We have solutions. We need to act and we need to act now," implored Beasley.

Russia is the world's top supplier of key fertilizers and gas.

The fertilizers are not subject to the Western sanctions, but sales have been disrupted by measures taken against the Russian financial system while Moscow has also restricted exports, diplomats say.