U.N. must take the lead in measures to help resolve the situation

The global food crisis is growing in severity and developing countries are being hit hard. There is an urgent need for the United Nations and Western countries to take the lead in securing routes for safely transporting grain from Ukraine and assisting developing nations.

The Russian military has blockaded the Black Sea to obstruct grain exports from Ukraine and late this month it also launched missile attacks on coastal storage warehouses. The tactic of targeting not only transportation routes but also the grain itself is disgraceful.

Russia and Ukraine account for about 30% of global wheat exports. Stagnation in exports from both countries pushed wheat prices in May 34% higher compared to before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Prices of grains other than wheat have also risen across the board, hitting hard countries that depend on imports and aid for much of their food, particularly in Africa and the Middle East.

In South Sudan, 7.74 million people — more than half the population — are reportedly facing food shortages, with 87,000 people in danger of dying from starvation.

Mass demonstrations have taken place in Iran and the autonomous areas of the Palestinians in the West Bank over rising food prices. There is concern that the deepening food crisis could lead to social disruption and political instability.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has made irrational claims that sanctions against Russia by Western nations have aggravated the food crisis, sought the understanding of Senegalese President Macky Sall, the chairperson of the African Union.

Taking advantage of the sense of urgency on the part of developing countries in an attempt to have them direct their criticism not at Russia but at Western countries is a despicable tactic. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, “Africa is actually taken hostage” in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. His remark is right on target.

If Western nations and developing countries come into conflict with each other over the food crisis, the situation will play into the hands of Putin. There is an urgent need to break the deadlock and establish a system to ensure stable grain supplies.

In U.N.-led talks, a proposal is being considered for a third country fleet to escort transport vessels from southern Ukrainian ports to safe waters in Turkey. Russia should accept the proposal.

At the same time, the United States has proposed transporting grain out of Ukraine by rail and shipping it from ports in Poland, among other countries. This method would be more expensive and time-consuming than a sea route, but it would be possible to make use of grain stored in warehouses.

India has banned exports of wheat to prioritize domestic supplies. It is necessary to be wary of protectionist moves. It is hoped that the United Nations will play a role in curbing food export control measures and increasing aid to developing countries.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 24, 2022)