Diplomats urge action as global food crisis deepens

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Senior diplomats urged rapid global action Friday in the face of a escalating food crisis, as the war in Ukraine exacerbated conditions that have pushed millions of people to starvation.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Barbock hosted officials including Foreign Minister Anthony Blinken and Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio in the German capital for a summit aimed at finding ways to mitigate the effects of the situation, which the United Nations says has now made tens of millions. People with severe food insecurity.

Russia is waging a cynical war on grain, using it as a tool to raise food prices [skyrocket] Barbock said in remarks alongside Blinken before the summit opened.

Officials described a slow-growing confluence of climate change, the coronavirus pandemic, and a series of global conflicts including, now, the war in Ukraine — a major source of grain whose crops are a major livelihood for countries including Egypt and Lebanon.

US officials stressed the need to compensate for the significant drop in exports from Ukraine, which before the Russian invasion on February 24 exported about 6 million tons of grain per month, mostly by sea. Now, huge amounts of wheat, barley, corn and vegetable oil are in storage facilities and ports due to the fighting, damaged infrastructure and the Russian naval blockade.

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Outside Ukraine, prices of many basic commodities and agricultural inputs have risen, as export restrictions have exacerbated previous supply chain hurdles. Russia, also a major source, has tried to blame Western sanctions for increasing hunger in Africa and elsewhere, a claim Germany and its allies called “fake news.”

Blinken, speaking to reporters after the meeting, warned that the suffering due to the war and food crisis was likely to continue for some time, but said the risks of ensuring that Russia was unable to accommodate its neighbor were great.

If Russia gets away with violating the basic principles that are at stake, it will not only be the Ukrainian people [who] He said. “It will drag us into a much more dangerous time, a much more unstable time. We will send the message that these principles are somehow dispensable.”

While the meeting was not intended to produce new donations to countries in need, additional funding from the world’s leading economic powers may come this weekend, when German Chancellor Olaf Schulz hosts President Biden and other leaders from the G7 bloc for another meeting. Peak in the Bavarian Alps.

Although the effects of the conflict in Ukraine have focused attention on escalating hunger, experts say food security has been eroding for years, driven in part by a global food supply chain that is increasingly concentrated and vulnerable to disruption.

These factors have more than doubled the number of people who fall into the ranks of severely food insecure people in recent years, to more than 300 million people worldwide, according to the United Nations World Food Program. Among the worst-affected countries are Ethiopia, Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan, where up to 750,000 people live in what the United Nations says are catastrophic conditions.

Unlike many previous food crises, there is an adequate food supply but it is not reaching those who need it, experts say.

“It’s a question of affordability and accessibility,” said Martin Frick, director of the UN World Food Program office in Berlin.

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Officials are now trying to help Ukraine extract its crops by land, but so far only a small part of this trade has taken place. Whereas a normal cargo ship can carry 50,000 metric tons, the largest European truck can carry 40 tons. Rail transport is also a challenge because Ukraine has a different railway gauge than other parts of Europe.

“It is almost impossible to balance the closure of seaports,” Frick said.

Officials describe a host of additional challenges, including persuading countries to abandon export controls they have imposed in response to the crisis, and persuading companies that ship and transport essential goods to bring Russian grain and fertilizer into the global market. Many companies have been reluctant to do so due to sanctions against Russia, despite the fact that it does not cover trade in food or agricultural inputs, a phenomenon officials describe as “over-compliant”.

WFP officials say the organization needs $22 billion this year to deal with emergency food needs, but they expect they may only be able to raise half of that. This shortage is occurring at a time when countries in the West provide arms and military aid to Ukraine. The United States alone has given more than $6 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since February.

Absent from this gathering is China, a major grain producer that uses the bulk of its supply for domestic consumption or storage. US officials said that while Beijing appeared to be deepening its alliance with Russia before President Vladimir Putin’s invasion, it did not provide military support to Russia.

Blinken addressed the withdrawal of Ukrainian forces this week from Severodonetsk, a strategic town in the eastern Donbass region, noting the heavy Russian losses in its offensive.

What we’ve been saying all along is that the trajectory of this struggle is not going to be linear.” “It will move back and forth.”

Blinken expressed confidence that foreign military aid would help Kyiv to continue resisting the Russian offensive despite its losses in the east. The United States and its allies have gradually increased the range of weapons they provide Ukraine, but some American lawmakers have called on the Biden administration to provide it with more advanced weapons, including long-range drones.

The days ahead will not be easy, Blinken said. But we must stand up to Russian aggression and we will confront it.”

He said that despite the apparent resilience of the Russian economy so far, global sanctions will lead to long-term losses. The country’s economy is expected to shrink by up to 15 percent this year. Blinken noted the pledges of European countries to abandon Russian oil, a major source of money.

“In the end the Russian people will have to ask themselves, is this war worth the price? Why are we doing this?”

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