Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned of a global “food crisis” stemming from the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine account for roughly 30 percent and 20 percent of global wheat and corn exports respectively, according to the Daily Times. Zelensky urged Western nations to help with getting blockaded Ukrainian ports back open in a statement on Saturday.
Before the war in wider Ukraine began, the nation was the world’s top producer of sunflower oil. The conflict has caused millions of tons of grain to become trapped behind blockaded ports.
The United Nations is currently pushing for a maritime corridor to be opened up to allow exports to resume, though an agreement has not yet been reached.
“The world will face an acute and severe food crisis and famine, in many countries of Asia and Africa,” Zelensky said in a video address to the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore.
“The shortage of foodstuffs will inexorably lead to political chaos, which can result in the (collapse) of many governments and the ousting of many politicians,” Zelensky told attendees, which included China’s chief defense official and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
“This looming threat is plain to see by just looking at the skyrocketing prices of basic products in the world markets and in certain countries. This is the direct consequence of the acts of the Russian state,” Zelensky continued.
The Ukrainian government is currently in talks with the United Nations, as well as Turkey, on securing safe passage for Ukrainian grain exports. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with Turkish officials in Ankara this week in order to discuss the issue, though an agreement was not reached.
Zelensky said Ukraine was currently exporting more than two million tons of grain via rail every month. This is not nearly enough to satisfy global demand, he added.
The UN’s global food price index (FAO) declined by 0.6% in April, though prices remain close to record-highs, which were reached earlier this year.
Fertilizer — the production of which is heavily tied in with the region — has also surged in price since the conflict began, further straining global food supplies.