Millions of tons of harvested grain are currently stuck in Ukraine due to war as global hunger crisis deepens
05/09/2022 // Cassie B. // Views

It is no secret that Russia’s war against Ukraine has been disrupting food production, but one particularly frustrating aspect of the situation is the fact that it is also preventing food that has already been harvested from being exported as global hunger rages on.

The regional director of the United Nations World Food Program, Martin Frick, has warned that there are 4.5 million tons of grains sitting at Ukrainian ports right now waiting for export.

According to Frick, 20 million tons of grain have been blocked from leaving the country so far this year, which represents a significant proportion of the grain produced by the country. According to The Guardian, 55 million tons of corn and wheat combined were harvested in Ukraine in 2020.

Grain is normally moved by bulk carrier ship from Black Sea ports in the Ukraine, something that has become impossible with the Russian invasion of the country. The grain is so incredibly bulky that it is not practical to move it by truck; one ship can reportedly carry as much grain as “tens of hundreds” of trucks.

Many experts have warned that a global food crisis is impending in the wake of the war between Ukraine and Russia as Ukraine is a major global producer of many agricultural and food products. The disruption of exports is being compounded by boycotts of Russia's production.

One of Russia's first actions as its hostilities against Ukraine intensified earlier this year was cutting the country off from sea lanes of communication. Several merchant ships have already been damaged or sunk in the Black Sea this year, including the bulk carriers used for exporting grains and wheat to the world. These civilian craft are reportedly falling victim to missiles, bombs and sea mines.


Frick warned that with food being unable to get out of Ukraine, the global hunger crisis is getting worse, putting populations in the Middle East and Africa at particular risk. He said: “We have to open up these ports. We have to open them up and protect them so that food can move in and out of this country for the rest of the world. It’s a humanitarian need, the rest of the world demands it, we have to have those ports open. We have to!”

“Hunger doesn’t have to be a weapon”

While Frick has said that “hunger doesn't have to be a weapon,” it appears that Russia is trying to weaponize food in Ukraine. In addition to actively blocking food from being exported from the country, there are widespread claims that they have been deliberately bombing grain silos and making off with Ukrainian grains in convoys headed north.

Ukrainian Government Deputy Agriculture Minister Taras Vysotskiy told Radio Free Europe: “There are confirmed facts that several hundred thousand tons of grain in total were taken out of the Zaporizhzhya, Kherson, Donetsk, and Luhansk regions.”

Frick believes that much like the humanitarian corridor that has been set up for Ukrainian refugees coming out of the regions impacted by the war and allowing humanitarian aid to get in, a humanitarian corridor should also be set up to help Ukraine’s significant agricultural output reach the rest of the world.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has pledged that his country will step in and assist with food shortages resulting from the war to help prevent mass starvation.

He said: “Right now we must concern ourselves with the fact that there are some people who will starve, that there are countries which will be unable to afford grain for their people and that this whole war situation could lead to a global hunger crisis.”

Plans are reportedly underway by several countries to enable blocked grain supplies to leave Ukraine via rail using a network of national rail operators in the region to create a “grain bridge,” but there are serious logistical challenges and other potential roadblocks that could make this difficult to achieve.

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