German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the G7 group of industrialized countries was urgently looking for alternative routes for the export of Ukrainian grain, as Russia’s war against its western neighbor increased the risk of a global “hunger crisis”.
Speaking after a three-day meeting of G7 foreign ministers in Germany, Baerbock said some 25 million tonnes of grain were stuck in Ukrainian ports that were blocked by Russian forces – ” grain that the world urgently needs”.
“Every ton we can get out will help a little to deal with this hunger crisis,” she said. “In the situation we find ourselves in, every week counts.”
Wheat prices have soared in recent weeks due to supply problems caused by the war in Ukraine, as well as a number of droughts around the world.
The US Department of Agriculture has predicted that global supplies for the next crop year will fall for the first time in four years.
Concerns over the supply situation deepened on Saturday when India announced it was banning wheat exports, a move that could drive up food prices and fuel hunger in poor countries that depend on grain imports from India.
The New Delhi government said the ban was to “manage the country’s overall food security”.
The issue of food emerged as one of the key issues in the G7 ministers’ weekend deliberations. Their final statement said Russia’s war had “generated one of the most serious food and fuel crises in recent history, which now threatens the most vulnerable across the world.”
He said the G7 was “committed to accelerating a coordinated multilateral response to safeguard global food security and to supporting our most vulnerable partners in this regard”.
Baerbock said the easiest way to resolve the food crisis would be for Russia to halt combat operations and allow grain out of Ukrainian ports, a move that would help “normalize global food prices”. But she said Russian President Vladimir Putin had shown no intention of doing so.
Instead, Western governments were looking for alternatives to the sea route. She said around 5-6 million tonnes of grain per month is normally exported through Ukrainian ports and that the G7 is “analyzing different rail routes that will allow us to get grain in as quickly as possible.”
Until now, she said, the Ukrainians had only managed to transport a “fraction” of their grain harvest by rail, via Romania. “But the bottleneck there is because Ukraine has a different track gauge [to Romania],” she says. “It’s the same for other connections, for example with Poland – freight cars can’t just pass.”
She said G7 ministers had also discussed using Baltic ports to export grain. “But first you have to reach them.” “There will be no perfect solution until the [Russian] the shelling continues,” she said.
In their communiqué, the G7 ministers expressed their “deep concern” at the worsening state of food insecurity and malnutrition in the world, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian war in Ukraine.
“Food prices and the costs for humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance to those most in need are both rising, at a time when 45 million people are already one step away from starvation,” said he declared.
The G7 foreign ministers also signaled that the West stands ready to continue assisting Ukraine’s military in its war against Russia for years to come. “We will continue our ongoing military and defense assistance to Ukraine for as long as necessary,” the ministers said.
But Baerbock has been quiet on a proposal, mooted by his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba and endorsed this week by Joseph Borrel, the EU’s top foreign policy representative, to use Russian assets seized by Western governments to finance the reconstruction of Ukraine. “Seizing frozen money is anything but straightforward in legal terms,” Baerbock said. “Such steps must be able to succeed. . . before the Court of Justice of the European Communities.