The head of the United Nations’ food agency says Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could lead to the worst global food crisis since World War II.
David Beasley, the head of the World Food Program, told the U.N. Security Council Tuesday that the month-old war has turned Ukraine “from the breadbasket of the world to breadlines.” He told the Security Council that 50% of the grain it purchases to feed 125 million people around the globe comes from Ukraine, and warned that it will have to start cutting rations in war-torn areas like Yemen, which has already had its food allotment cut in half due to rising costs of food, fuel and shipping.
Beasley said Ukraine and Russia combined produce 30% of the world’s wheat supply, 20% of its corn and between 75-90% of sunflower seed oil. Egypt and Lebanon alone receive just over 80% of its grain supplies from Ukraine.
Beasley told the Security Council that the war has forced Ukraine’s farmers into the front lines of the war instead of tending to their crops during planting season. He also said Ukraine’s farmers are facing a shortage of fertilizer products from Belarus and Russia, which could diminish Ukraine’s harvest by 50%.
He said the war will create “a catastrophe on top of a catastrophe” if it continues, as it will lead to famine, destabilization of countries and mass migrations. He said “the last thing we want to do as the World Food Program is taking food from hungry children to give to starving children.”
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman blamed the situation squarely on Russian President Vladimir Putin. She said Russian forces have bombed at least three civilian ships carrying goods from ports on the Black Sea, and accused the Russian navy of blocking access to Ukrainian ports to cut off exports of grain.
But Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s envoy to the world body, blamed the rising food prices on “hysterical sanctions” imposed on his country by the United States and other Western nations. Nebenzia said the Russian navy has established a humanitarian corridor to allow ships to leave Ukrainian ports.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse.