Middle East and Africa food security threatened by Ukraine invasion, US official says

Ukraine is one of the world’s leading exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil

Farmers worldwide are considering changing their planting patterns to grow more wheat this spring as Russia's war in Ukraine has choked off supplies from a region known as 'the breadbasket of the world.' AP

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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has exacerbated food shortages in Africa and the Middle East, a US official said on Thursday.

Ukraine is one of the world’s leading exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but its production has come to a near standstill.

Farmers have had to abandon their tractors and take up arms, according to Ramin Toloui, assistant secretary for economic and business affairs in the Biden administration.

Additionally, he said Russian forces have destroyed grain silos and other critical infrastructure, severely hampering Ukraines ability to store and transport agricultural products.

Since the war started on February 24, Ukraine’s agricultural exports have been severely hampered.

With Russia blocking access to the country’s main ports in the Black Sea, grain exports were capped at 800,000 tons, down from an average of 5 million tons, according Ukraine’s Agricultural Ministry.

Ukraine’s inability to export grains has caused global prices to soar, with farmers worldwide weighing whether to change their planting patterns and grow more wheat this spring.

Russian President Vladimir “Putin’s actions are threatening vulnerable people in the Middle East and Africa with food scarcity or worse, starvation,” said Mr Toloui.

African and Middle Eastern countries rely on Russian fertiliser and Ukrainian grains to help feed their populations.

The shortages caused by the war are directly affecting these regions, he added.

President Joe Biden's administration has pledged $1 billion for those affected by the war in Ukraine.

The assistance covers critical needs such as safe drinking water, shelter and emergency food assistance, Mr Toloui said.

The US has also provided Ukraine with more than $1.7bn in military assistance since the war started.

Updated: April 07, 2022, 7:00 PM