The UN's Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance reported that food should never be a luxury as it is a fundamental human right, but the war may turn food shortages into a catastrophe of global proportions.
The war between Russia and Ukraine has been battering the global food system, which was already weakened by the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and supply chain crisis. Ukraine's exports of grain and oilseeds have mostly been stopped, while Russia's are being threatened.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that there could be a global food shortage that could last for years. The number of severely food-insecure people has already doubled in the past two years.
"Food prices are at near-record highs. Fertilizer prices have more than doubled, sounding an alarm everywhere," Guterres said. "Without fertilizers, shortages will spread from corn and wheat to all staple crops, including rice, with a devastating impact on billions of people in Asia and South America, too. This year's food crisis is about lack of access. Next year's could be about lack of food." (Related: Food crisis incoming: War in Ukraine threatening global food supplies, half a billion people at risk of hunger.)
Guterres himself has been involved in negotiations to resume grain shipments from Odesa in Ukraine, while Russia, Turkey and the UN have also been cooperating to provide unimpeded access to global markets for Russian food and fertilizers.
With the ripple effect of the war contributing to another 47 million facing food insecurity this year, Guterres said the food production in Ukraine and the food and fertilizer produced by Russia must be brought back into world markets despite the war.
The Ukrainian government as well as western leaders have repeatedly accused Russia of impending grain exports by blocking Ukraine's Black Sea ports. President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his own concerns about the limited exports impacting global world hunger.
"We cannot export our wheat, corn, vegetable oil and other products that have played a stabilizing role in the global market. This means that, unfortunately, dozens of countries may face a physical shortage of food. Millions of people may starve if Russia's blockade of the Black Sea continues," Zelensky said. "We cannot export our wheat, corn, vegetable oil and other products that have played a stabilizing role in the global market."
But Russia dismissed Zelensky's claims, saying that it is ready to ensure safe passage for grain-carrying vessels. The Kremlin added that the disruption is due to the mining of the shoreline by the Ukrainian military.
Russia's Ministry of Defense accused Ukrainian "militants of the nationalist battalions" of deliberately setting fire to a large granary in Mariupol's sea port while fleeing from Russian forces, destroying more than 50 thousand tons of grain.
According to the statement from the ministry, the alleged act of arson went down due to the unwillingness of the "militants" to leave grain supplies to the residents, instead opting to burn and destroy the grains.
"This crime demonstrates to the entire world community the 'true face' of the Kyiv regime, using the methods of food terrorism against its own people," the Russia's Defense Ministry said. It also stressed that the destruction was committed as the "so-called civilized West" continues supporting Kyiv while accusing Russia of causing the food crisis.
Moreover, the ministry stressed that the Russian forces during their "special military operation" supported the civilian population, treated them humanely and refused to strike at the social infrastructure of the country, unlike Ukraine's armed formations. (Related: Kremlin: Western sanctions on Russia to blame for global FOOD CRISIS.)
Since the launch of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, both countries have accused each other of various war crimes while denying their own liabilities.
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