Russia must end blockade preventing grain exports

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused grain prices to soar, and the global food crisis is becoming serious. This is due to Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports, which are hubs for grain exports.

The international community should increase pressure on Russia to end the blockade.

A ministerial meeting on food security organized by the United States has been held at the United Nations. Representatives of about 50 countries and organizations made speeches, and a number of African and Middle Eastern countries expressed their sense of crisis, saying that the conflict in Europe has brought a new ordeal.

Ukraine accounts for about 10% of the world’s wheat exports, and the blockade of ports along the Black Sea coast is said to have stalled the export of 20 million tons of grain.

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned, “Unless we solve this problem today, we face the specter of global food shortages in the coming months,” and urged Russia to allow exports. The obstruction of exports, which is causing a global food crisis, cannot be left unaddressed.

Russia is one of the world’s leading producers of fertilizer as well as grain, but fertilizer exports have also stalled and prices are rising at an accelerating rate. This could hinder the world’s grain supply from next year onward.

Russian President Vladimir Putin made the far-fetched argument that the situation has been exacerbated by U.S. and European economic sanctions, and that Russia is ready to contribute to overcoming the food crisis in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.

Using grain exports as a bargaining chip over sanctions is tantamount to weaponizing food and is outrageous.

Russia must immediately lift its blockade with no conditions.

According to the United Nations, the number of people facing severe food shortages worldwide has doubled from 135 million before the novel coronavirus pandemic to 276 million. Africa and the Middle East, where many low-income countries are highly dependent on grain from Ukraine and Russia, have been hit hardest.

Support is urgently needed. Advanced countries need to provide as much assistance as possible, such as transporting grain stuck in Ukraine through land routes by rail and vehicles.

It is important to encourage African, Middle Eastern and other countries to cooperate in strengthening pressure on Russia to lift the port blockade.

Food security is also a major issue for Japan, which relies on imports for much of its food. Rising prices for products such as wheat and soybeans have led to widespread price increases for a wide range of food products in Japan.

The government should come up with specific measures to ensure stable food supplies in preparation for a prolonged crisis in Ukraine.

Measures should be implemented to expand domestic production of wheat and other grains and to increase demand for rice, for which consumption has been sluggish. It is hoped that the government will formulate effective measures to revitalize agriculture, which is facing a shortage of manpower due to the aging of the farming population.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 29, 2022)