Wednesday, 6 Jul 2022

Putin’s Ukraine war sparks famine fears as 4m tonnes of grain blocked off in Odessa

Grain shortage is 'existential threat' to European security says MP

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The news was announced by the United Nations World Food Program which indicated the staple had remained trapped as the war affects land and sea routes in the region. With the war having a direct impact on global food supplies, rising prices and shortages are being met with calls to open supply routes to alleviate the crisis.

According to UN reports, food prices around the world have increased by more than 12 percent since 1990, with the most recent surge coming into place as uncertainty grows over the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Prior to the war, Ukraine was one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of wheat and corn, a global staple in bread making and other foods.

Globally, many nations relied heavily on Ukrainian supplies.

Most affected by the shortage of wheat are developing regions that rely on it as a staple part of their diet.

Countries in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia could see famine strike as certain areas of the population remain under-nourished, relying on cheap bread or noodles.

The hold-up could cause what grain is being stored in Odessa to spoil should it continue to be held or blocked.

One official, Mykoa Solskyi, Ukraine’s farm minister who is familiar with the situation, said: “It is not unloaded and is still on vessels.

“There are currently 57 vessels with tonnes of grain and oilseeds.

“As for the retention period, I think that even the captains themselves in most cases do not know if there are any problems with this.

“They certainly did not plan to keep this grain on the ships for a long time.”

Mr Solskyi said that everything depended on the condition of the holds of the vessels and that, if the grain is stored for more than three months, “problems arise and part of the cargo can be spoiled”.

Before the war, Ukraine exported up to six million tons of grain and oilseed a month, while in March the exports fell to 200,000 tonnes.

However, on top of the risks of famine in poorer countries, as well as price increases in more developed areas, the minister warned that even if the blockage is opened, the short term benefits would still not be felt.

Mr Solskyi said: “Even if this story ended magically tomorrow, the wave of high prices will be another three to five years, until the mood levels off, and there will be no balance.”

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In the UK, the impact of the grain blockage is also being felt, as the rising cost of living forces supermarkets and shops to increase their own prices in response to shortages and higher supply prices.

Rocketing UK inflation has seen the average price of food and non-alcoholic beverages soar by 6.7 percent, the latest statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.

The price of a sliced loaf of white bread was up by 8.5 percent in the past six months from £1.06 in October 2021 to £1.15 last month, with prices up nearly 6.5 percent since last April.

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With Ukraine also a key supplier of cooking oils, the UK has also seen major price rises in this field.

A 500g tub of margarine had increased in price by 18 percent from £1.52 in October 2021, to £1.80 last month, marking a year-on-year monthly rise of 24 percent.

The price of margarine, as well as other cooking fats and oils, has been impacted by the war – as Russia and Ukraine are the world’s largest producers of sunflower oil.
With the war now entering its fourth month, the focus of conflict has turned to eastern and southern Ukraine.

Both Mariupol and Odessa are vital logistical hubs for the country, and with the former already in Russian hands, the global supplies will continue to face uncertainty into the future.

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