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UN's Guterres warns that food crisis not over

August 19, 2022

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has visited the Ukrainian port of Odesa, where grain exports are moving after a monthslong blockade. He says food insecurity is still a huge issue in developing countries.

Grain being loaded into the Brave Commander, an UN-chartered vessel, that carried grain to Ethiopia
The first UN-chartered shipment of Ukrainian grain left Odesa on August 14Image: Oleksander Gimanov/AFP/Getty Images

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday that there was "still a long way to go" in resolving the global food crisis sparked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

On a visit to Ukraine's port city of Odesa, where grain exports are flowing after a nearly six-month Russian blockade, he said developing countries now needed financial aid to buy Ukrainian wheat and barley.

World must help low-income countries buy grain

"It is time for massive and generous support so developing countries can purchase the food from this and other ports — and people can buy it," Guterres said.

Between them, Russia and Ukraine export a quarter of the world's wheat and 15% of corn and, without Ukraine's contribution, many parts of the world are facing severe food shortages after prices skyrocketed.

Last month, Moscow and Kyiv signed a deal brokered by the UN and Turkey to unblock millions of tons of Ukrainian grain.

The agreement allows ships to leave via the Black Sea without the risk of Russian attack through safe corridors through the naval mines laid by Ukraine.

"This is an agreement between two parties locked in bitter conflict. It is unprecedented in scope and scale. But there is still a long way to go on many fronts," Guterres said, during his visit to Odesa.

The UN chief had previously spoken about the need to "scale up" the deal ahead of winter.

Ukraine: Sailing grain out of a war zone

Millions of tons of grain awaits export

Kyiv said Thursday that 25 boats carrying some 600,000 tonnes of agricultural products have left from three designated Ukrainian ports. Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said Friday that 10 more cargo ships were being loaded with grain in Ukrainian Black Sea ports.

Meanwhile, Guterres spoke of the need for unimpeded access to Russian food and fertilizers, which are subject to export delays.

He reiterated that, without the speedy return of Russian fertilizer to global markets, the world may not have enough food in 2023.

Russia blames US and EU sanctions for the shortage of exports, but Western leaders have accused Moscow of using food insecurity as a weapon.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday vowed that his country would be "the guarantor of global food security," in the absence of Russian exports.

He made the comments after talks in Lviv with Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Ukraine needs power from Zaporizhzhia

On another hot topic related to the conflict, Guterres called for the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station not to be cut off from Ukraine's grid.

Kyiv says the plant, which has come under shelling for several days, was set to have its electricity diverted to Crimea, the region of Ukraine that Russia annexed in 2014.

Any cut to Ukraine's electricity grid from Zaporizhzhia would exacerbate a winter fuel crisis as the country's cash reserves dry up.

mm/sms (AFP, Reuters)