One of the earliest casualties of Russia’s senseless war on Ukraine, and one of the globally most devastating, was the stoppage of food shipments from Ukraine, the world’s fifth largest exporter of wheat and the second largest exporter of sunflower oil. As drought and strife caused unprecedented food insecurity in vulnerable regions around the world, Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports decimated supplies of food available to aid organizations.
With the July 27, 2022, signing of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, brokered by Türkiye and the United Nations, exports of Ukrainian grain resumed. But the Initiative expires on May 18, giving Russia the opportunity to again block the passage of cargo ships to and from Ukraine’s ports even before the original agreement expires, and to threaten to pull out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative altogether.
“We should not need to remind Moscow every few weeks to keep their promises and to stop using people’s hunger as a weapon in their war against Ukraine,” said United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, quoting Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Speaking at a Foreign Press Center Briefing on the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield said that with over 345 million people facing high levels of food insecurity right now, we are facing a global food crisis. “This is a crisis felt most acutely in Africa and the Middle East, and especially by people in countries where food was already in short supply,” she said. “The point of the Black Sea Grain Initiative is to make sure grain and food supplies get to those in desperate need and to stabilize global markets.”
The initiative has enabled the export of over 30 million metric tons of foodstuff. Most of it went to various aid organizations, which then delivered desperately needed supplies to those most in need. For example, Ukrainian food fueled the World Food Program’s humanitarian operations in Afghanistan, Somalia, and Yemen, saving countless lives.
“The world needs the Black Sea Grain Initiative,” said Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield. “What’s more, the world needs Russia to end its illegal war against Ukraine, which would allow farmers to return to their fields, return agricultural trade to normal, and immediately and significantly improve global food security.
“In the meantime, Russia must stop playing games with the lives of hungry people around the world.”