Russia's war on Ukraine and its blocking of both Ukrainian grain exports and restricting its own exports threaten to create a global wave of hunger, EU Foreign Affairs Chief Josep Borrell warned in a recent statement.
After years of the figure declining, the World Food Program (WFP) estimates that the number of undernourished people has risen from 132 million people before the COVID-19 pandemic to 276 million in early 2022 and 323 million, partly as a result of the pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine, one of the most important “breadbaskets” of the planet.
"The unjustified and unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine puts the world in danger of a famine affecting hundreds of millions of people," Borrell wrote on Saturday. "We must urgently enable Ukraine to export its grains through the Black Sea."
Importantly, EU sanctions do not prohibit Russia from exporting any agricultural goods, from paying for such exports, or from buying or exporting seeds, “provided that sanctioned individuals or entities are not involved."
There is an ongoing “battle of narrative” about who is responsible for the global food crisis. While we are working with UN and other partners to avoid a wave of hunger, Russia bombs and offers cynical lies and disinformation.Read my new blog post: https://t.co/1njvTZ6VWk pic.twitter.com/dlh6LDqxl8 — Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) June 18, 2022
Borrell stressed that, instead, it is an intentional political move by Russia to make hunger a byproduct of the war, as well as a bargaining chip.
He stated that aside from blocking Ukraine’s ports, and preventing the export of millions of tons of grain to global markets, the Russian army is also shelling, mining and occupying arable land in the war-torn country, as well as attacking farm equipment, warehouses, markets, roads, and bridges.
"Russia turned the Black Sea into a war zone, blocking shipments of grain and fertilizer from Ukraine but also affecting Russian merchant shipping."
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Borrell stressed that Russia is also applying "quotas and taxes on its grain exports" to "weaponise" these exports and use them as a tool for blackmail against anyone that opposes its aggression.
He added that the EU is working closely with the UN on this issue and that he hopes that a solution can be found in the coming days. "Not doing this threatens to cause a global food catastrophe.”
Stopping war is solution
According to the UN Global Crisis Response Group cited by Borrell, 1.2 billion people — one-sixth of the world’s population — are living in so-called "perfect-storm" countries that are severely exposed to the combination of rising food prices, and rising energy prices and tightening financial conditions.
Borrell concluded that to avoid a global food calamity, the top priority remains to "stop the war and get Russian troops out of Ukraine."