Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has jeopardized food supplies, despite Russian foreign minister’s claim

Last week, during a press conference in Oman, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: “Russia’s actions have in no way influenced and cannot influence the world food problem. This statement is verified by the Russian state news agency TASS, published on May 11. In response to a question about the impact of Russian actions on the global food problem, Lavrov blames “illegal sanctions that have been imposed by Western countries.”

However, as this brief published by the Council on Foreign Relations in April reports, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has jeopardized food supplies in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), a region where many countries are heavily dependent on imports, especially commodities such as wheat. Food insecurity was already a major challenge in the region due to climate change, water stress and the COVID-19 pandemic.

On May 18, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the war had worsened food insecurity in the poorest countries due to rising prices, and that some countries could face famines in long term if Ukraine’s exports do not return to pre-war levels. Since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February, food exports have collapsed and prices have soared. They climbed further after India banned wheat exports on Saturday.

The idea that the sanctions are to blame for the food shortages, which were imposed in reaction to the Russian invasion, is illogical. Kimball Bullington, professor of supply chain management at Middle Tennessee State University, has this to say…

The argument that Western bans and sanctions were the sole cause of Ukraine’s export deficits ignores damage to Ukrainian infrastructure, such as loss of ports and transportation insecurity and manpower caused by Russia’s actions. It also assumes that these bans and sanctions would have taken place apart from the actions initiated by Russia. There is no reason to believe these claims by the Russian Foreign Minister.

As reported by…

Prior to Russia’s full invasion in February, Ukraine was among the world’s top exporters of corn ($4.89 billion) and wheat ($4.61 billion), and the world’s largest exporter of seed oils ($5.32 billion). Russia’s war interrupts the agricultural cycle, impedes food exports, disrupts food supply chains and causes food shortages around the world.

US lawmakers are pushing for a humanitarian corridor to halt Black Sea shipping due to a Russian blockade, Politico reported May 11. Ukraine’s wheat supplies are essential for several countries in the Middle East, among others.

“While European Union officials, with the help of the United States, are set to announce a new effort to ship Ukrainian grain over land routes via rail and truck, land routes are costly and time-consuming to establish, and even planners acknowledge that they will not compensate for the volume that can be transported by seaport,” the outlet reported.

“They are now sitting on 12 million tonnes of last harvest agricultural produce that will spoil this fall unless it is shipped,” said US Congressman Jason Crow. Crow was part of a delegation that met Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv last month.