BOSTON, Massachusetts — Since the outbreak of war between Russia and Ukraine, there has been a significant blockage of Ukraine’s wheat export, worsening the global food crisis. The U.N. made a deal back in July 2022 between the two countries to allow for the shipment to continue, greatly aiding countries impacted by poverty and starvation.
War and Food Insecurity
Ukraine, which is one of the world’s leading grain exporters, has seen blockage in ports from Russian forces. This has stopped their normal supply of 45 million tonnes of grain to the global market that could help 828 million people that are facing food insecurity across the world. As the World Food Programme (WFP) outlines, the major factors that lead to food insecurity are conflict, costs and more recently, COVID-19.
Before the invasion of Russia, Ukraine produced enough grain to feed 400 million people per year. Now, the war has limited the country’s exports, drastically raising food prices globally, UNCTAD reports. Russia restricted Ukraine’s shipments by sea, something land routes cannot make up. This is directly impacting places like Afghanistan, Yemen, Egypt, Lebanon and even countries like the United States and England through inflation, import expenses and conflict. This crisis doesn’t hinder Ukraine only, as Russia saw a significant hit on food and fertilizer exports as well. The seriousness of this situation was not left unnoticed, as quickly the United Nations stepped up to help.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative
On July 22, 2022, the U.N. teamed up with Turkey to broker a deal between the Russian Federation and Ukraine called the Black Sea Grain Initiative, UNCTAD reports. The two countries signed the deal in Istanbul. The Black Grain Sea Initiative allows Ukraine to resume exports of grain and fertilizer through a safe maritime passage from three of its major ports. Joint Coordinator Center (JCC) would constantly monitor the passage to ensure the safety of the vessels. Shipments began on August 1 2022 and by the end of the month over 100 ships containing more than 1 million tonnes of food export left Ukraine.
Over 435 ships have exported 10 million tons of cargo to 39 countries as of November 2022, shipping more than 2.2 million tons of food to countries facing food insecurity. The amount of wheat globally traded from Ukraine jumped from 9,199 exports in April 2022 to 1,979,534 exports in October 2022. Since August 2022, Ukraine has sent 25% of the cargo directly to lower-income countries, such as Egypt, India, Iran, Kenya, Sudan, Bangladesh, Lebanon, Djibouti, Tunisia, Yemen and Somalia, UNCTAD reports. Another 25% went to Turkey, China and Bulgaria; and the remaining 50% went to high-income countries like Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, the Republic of Korea, Romania, Germany, Greece, Ireland, France and Israel.
Between August 2022 and September 2022, the initiative doubled the amount of wheat Ukraine shipped to the least developed countries and the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Food Price index has decreased since the start of the war, falling from 8.6% in July 2022 to 1.1% in September 2022, according to USAID. The equivalent of nearly 3 million loaves of bread has been sent out from Ukraine.
Although this is incredible results, it is important to keep in mind this initiative requires ongoing collaboration to continue success. The U.N.’s coordinator of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Amir Abdulla, has praised Russia and Ukraine’s “collaborative spirit” and despite tensions, is positive that the U.N. will be able to keep the initiative alive.
– Audrey Gaines