The Biden administration says there are more than 20 million tons of grain stuck in silos near Ukrainian ports, courtesy of a Russian blockade.
Serhiy Hrebtsov, a Ukrainian grain farmer, says it is cheaper for him to “throw it away” than find someone to buy his grain. Hrebtsov is among countless other farmers who are unable to sell their crops and earn a living.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy issued a stark warning to world leaders to do something or face “a severe food crisis and famine in many countries.”
According to the United Nations (UN), Ukraine accounted for 10% of global wheat exports in 2021. Ukraine’s agriculture ministry says grain exports are down more than 60% compared to last year.
Global food prices are already increasing, and the UN warns of worldwide food shortages next year if Russia continues its siege.
“The blockade by the Russian navy has created a global crisis that we cannot solve by ourselves. And NATO is closing its eyes to the problem,” says the mayor of Ukrainian port city of Odesa, Gennadiy Trukhanov.
U.S. officials say Russian invaders have also destroyed Ukrainian farming equipment and pilfered their grain. The United States warns that Moscow is trying to profit from the current situation by selling stolen wheat to other countries.
The New York Times reports the U.S. State Department sent a cable to more than a dozen countries – largely in Africa – warning them that Russia could be trying to sell them stolen grain. The cable identified three Russian cargo ships that officials suspected were carrying stolen grain.
The Biden administration says it’s working to blunt the impact of Russia’s actions by “working closely with our European partners to get 20 million tons of grain locked in Ukraine out onto the market to help bring down food prices.”
Ukraine, known as the “bread basket” of the world, is one of the largest producers of wheat, sunflower oil, honey and other commodities. According to the senators, about 400 million people, including in Africa and the Middle East, depend on Ukraine and Russia for food.