May 20, 2022


UN Secretary-General in discussions to restore Ukraine grain exports



Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, said he is in discussions with Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, the US, and the European Union to restore Ukraine grain exports as the worldwide food crisis deteriorates, Reuters reported.


Guterres said he is hopeful but there is a long way to go, adding that the complicated security, economic, and financial ramifications necessitate mutual goodwill. He visited Kyiv and Moscow in late-April.


Guterres called to Russia to enable "the safe and secure transfer of grain held in Ukrainian ports" and for Russian food and fertilisers to "have full and unfettered access to international markets" during a UN food security conference chaired by Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State.


Global prices for cereals, cooking oils, gasoline, and fertiliser have risen as a result of Russia's invasion into Ukraine, and Guterres has warned that this will exacerbate food, energy, and economic crises in impoverished nations.


Guterres said the conflict threatens to push tens of millions of people over the brink into food insecurity, followed by malnutrition, widespread hunger, and famine.


Ukraine used to export the majority of its commodities via seaports, but since Russia's invasion on February 24, it has been forced to export via train or through its smaller Danube River ports.


David Beasley, the UN food head said to Vladimir Putin, Russia's President to open Ukranian ports. Beasley is the executive director of the World Food Programme, which feeds 125 million people and buys half of its grain from Ukraine.


Together, Russia and Ukraine produce about a third of the world's wheat. Ukraine also exports grain, barley, sunflower oil, and rapeseed oil, while Russia and Belarus, which has backed Moscow in its conflict in Ukraine, account for more than 40% of world potash exports.


Blinken said Russia should be obliged to provide corridors so that food and other essential goods may leave Ukraine securely by land or sea.


He said in Ukraine, an estimated 22 million tonnes of grain are now stored in silos. These are food that could be used to help people in need right now if it could just get out of the nation.


According to the United Nations, 36 nations, including some of the world's poorest and most vulnerable, rely on Russia and Ukraine for more than half of their wheat imports, including Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.


Vassily Nebenzia, Russia's UN Ambassador, said Guterres met with Andrei Belousov, Russia's first deputy Prime Minister on Tuesday concerning Russian fertiliser and grain exports.


Nebenzia said the negotiations went smoothly and positively, but he made it clear that Ukrainian access to foreign markets was a distinct matter.


While there are no direct restrictions on Russian fertilisers or grains, Nebenzia claimed there was an impact on shipping, insurance, and banking when the US and others began punishing Russia for what Moscow terms a "special military operation" in Ukraine.


Blinken called it "wrong" to blame sanctions since the US had made exceptions and was striving to ensure that Washington's measures "do not prohibit food or fertiliser from leaving Russia or anyone else."


-      Reuters

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