Last week, in a press conference in Oman, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, "Russia's actions have in no way influenced and cannot influence the global food problem." This statement is verified by Russian state-owned news agency, TASS, posted on May 11th. In reply to a question about the impact of Russian actions on the global food problem, Lavrov blames the "illegal sanctions that have been imposed by Western countries."
However, as this brief posted by the Council on Foreign Relations back in April reports, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has jeopardized food supplies across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), a region where many countries rely heavily on imports, especially staples such as wheat. Food insecurity was already a major challenge in the region as a result of climate change, water stress, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
On May 18th, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the war had worsened food insecurity in poorer nations due to rising prices, and that some countries could face long-term famines if Ukraine's exports are not restored to pre-war levels. Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February, food exports have collapsed and prices have skyrocketed. They climbed even further after India banned wheat exports on Saturday.
The idea that sanctions are to blame for food shortages, which were placed in reaction to Russia's invasion, is illogical. Kimball Bullington, professor of Supply Chain Management at Middle Tennessee State University has this to say...
The argument that Western bans and sanctions have been the sole cause of Ukraine’s shortfalls in exports ignores the damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure, such as loss of ports and insecurity of transportation and manpower caused by Russia’s actions. It also assumes these bans and sanctions would have taken place apart from actions initiated by Russia. There is no reason to believe these claims by the Russian Foreign Minister.
Before Russia’s all-out invasion in February, Ukraine was among world’s top exporters of corn ($4.89 billion) and wheat ($4.61 billion), and the world’s biggest exporter of seed oils ($5.32 billion). Russia’s war is interrupting the agricultural cycle, preventing food exports, disrupting food supply chains, and causing food shortages worldwide.
U.S. lawmakers are pressing for a humanitarian corridor to allow Black Sea shipments halted because of a Russian blockade, Politico reported on May 11. Ukraine’s wheat supplies are critical to multiple Mideast countries, among others.
“While European Union officials, with U.S. help, are set to announce a new effort to ship Ukrainian grain over land routes via rail and truck, the land routes are expensive and time-consuming to establish, and even the planners acknowledge they won’t make up for the volume that can be moved by seaport,” the outlet reported.
“They’re sitting now on 12 million tons of agricultural products from the last harvest that will spoil by this fall unless it’s shipped,” U.S. Congressman Jason Crow said. Crow was part of a delegation that met with Ukraine President Volodomyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv last month.