A Brief Solution to the Ongoing Food Crisis

Foreign Affairs

A ship transporting grain from Odessa was the first to leave port since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

(Dobra Kobra/Shutterstock)

A ship transporting grain from Odessa was the first to leave port since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Russia placed a blockade around any ship that attempted to move goods from Ukraine during the conflict. But, due to a deal negotiated between Moscow and Kiev last month with the help of Turkey and the United Nations, the cargo ship Razoni was packed with 26,000 tons of Ukrainian corn and set off for the Lebanese port of Tripoli on Monday.

As the Razoni, which sails under the flag of Sierra Leone, makes its voyage from the Black Sea and into the Mediterranean, it will travel along a safe corridor monitored by the UN and Turkey and observed by the Russian navy, Oleksandr Kubrakov, the Ukrainian infrastructure minister, claimed in a Facebook post. Kubrakov also said that 16 other vessels loaded with grain were stuck in the port of Odessa, but that the Razoni’s secured departure represented “a colossal success for ensuring global food security.”

Ukrainian pilotships will assist the Razoni, future ships and other vessels in the safe passage of the Black Sea’s corridor. They also help to avoid mines.

The Razoni will stop briefly in Istanbul where Russia and Ukraine signed the UN-backed agreement last month. They will then continue to Tripoli. Turkey is a NATO ally and has been under increasing pressure in recent years due to its recent decision to buy Russian missile systems and tighten economic relations with Moscow. This will be followed by a brief stop in Istanbul where the Razoni will continue to Tripoli.

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The Istanbul deal last month permits commercial food exports to resume from Odessa and Chernomorsk. However, the reopening these ports to commercial food exports was delayed by Russia’s missile attack on Odessa just one month after the deal was signed. The attack by Russia on Odessa was claimed to be proof that Russia is incapable of implementing this and other similar agreements.

As the world’s food supplies have become more severe, the U.N. created an Istanbul-based joint coordination center to make sure that all signatories adhere to the agreement. Martin Griffiths, U.N. Humanitarian Relations Coordinator said that he was hopeful that the quick collective actions of the signatories will result in much-needed relief to the most food-insecure individuals around the globe

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated Monday that the center would bring “much-needed stabilization and relief to global hunger security, especially in the most vulnerable humanitarian contexts,” as demonstrated by the success of the Razoni.

But Ukraine, which has garnered the nickname as “the breadbasket of Europe,” will need to be exporting much, much more than 26,000 tons of grain if the global food supply is going to avoid further calamity. Ukraine is the fifth-largest producer of wheat in the world and is responsible for 45 million tons of wheat to the global supply every year. Turning that tap off for five months will surely carry long term ramifications–whether it is further increased prices for food essentials or outright famine.

These effects will most reverberate in the global South. Analysts have noticed the severe hazard that Russia’s invasion in Ukraine has created for food supply prospects of many countries of the global south. This is something these countries know well. The global south is reluctant to condemn or exonerate Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent insecurity in the world’s food supply due to Russia’s control of oil.

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In March my colleague John Hirschauer published “The Looming Food Crisis”.

Like most agricultural commodities, the price of wheat tends to move with the price of oil. Global wheat prices will rise due to the continued increase in crude oil prices and the decline of Russian wheat exports. Domestically, that means $5. 50 for a loaf of bread is no small thing–but abroad, it could be lethal. Wheat is responsible for some 20 percent of the world’s caloric intake. Nigeria, where 40 percent of people live below the global poverty line, is one of the world’s ten leading importers of wheat. How do they import wheat if it isn’t possible to afford?

When you consider that Russia is the largest wheat producer in the world, it is no surprise that the global south is not taking a strong stance against Russia’s invasion. It is also important that the country chooses the former.

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