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UN chief in talks on Ukraine grain export recovery amid global food crisis

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UNITED NATIONS – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday he is in “intense contact” with Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, the United States and the European Union in an effort to restore Ukraine’s grain exports as the global food crisis worsens.

“I am hopeful, but there is still a way to go,” said Guterres, who visited Moscow and Kiev late last month. “The complex security, economic and financial implications require goodwill on all sides.”

At a food security meeting at the United Nations hosted by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Guterres called on Russia to allow “the safe and secure export of grain stored in Ukrainian ports” and to allow Russian food and fertilizers” full and unrestricted access to global markets.”

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Russia’s war in Ukraine has pushed world prices for grains, cooking oil, fuel and fertilizers, and Guterres warned it will exacerbate food, energy and economic crises in poor countries.

“It threatens to lead tens of millions of people over the edge into food insecurity, followed by malnutrition, mass starvation and famine, in a crisis that could last for years,” Guterres said.

Ukraine used to export most of its goods through seaports, but since the Russian invasion on February 24, it has been forced to export by train or through its small Danube ports.

UN food chief David Beasley appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin: “If you have any heart, please open these gates.” Beasley leads the World Food Program, which feeds some 125 million people and buys 50% of its grain in Ukraine.

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“This is not just about Ukraine. This is about the very poorest who are currently on the brink of starvation,” Beasley said.

Russia and Ukraine together account for almost a third of the world’s wheat supply. Ukraine is also a major exporter of maize, barley, sunflower and canola oil, while Russia and Belarus — which Moscow has supported in its war in Ukraine — account for more than 40% of global exports of potassium, a crop nutrient. .

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Blinken said Russia should be forced to create corridors so that food and other essential supplies can leave Ukraine safely by land or sea.

“There is currently an estimated 22 million tons of grain in silos in Ukraine. Food that can be used immediately to help people in need if it can just get out of the country,” said Blinken.

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The United Nations has said 36 countries rely on Russia and Ukraine for more than half of their wheat imports, including some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, including Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Guterres spoke to Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister, Andrei Belousov, on Tuesday about Russia’s fertilizer and grain exports, Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said.

“The discussions have, as far as I know, gone well and positively,” Nebenzia told reporters on Wednesday, but indicated that Ukrainian access to international markets was a separate issue.

“We are ready to do our part. Access to the Ukrainian grain market is something else,” Nebenzia said.

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Nebenzia said that while there were no direct sanctions on Russian fertilizers or grains, there was a chilling effect on shipping, insurance and banking after the United States and others began punishing Russia for what Moscow calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Blinken said it was “false” to blame sanctions because the United States had made exceptions and made sure that the measures imposed by Washington “do not prevent food or fertilizer from leaving Russia or anywhere”.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols and Humeyra Pamuk; editing by Richard Pullin and Cynthia Osterman)

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This post UN chief in talks on Ukraine grain export recovery amid global food crisis was original published at “https://financialpost.com/pmn/business-pmn/u-n-chief-in-talks-on-restoring-ukraine-grain-exports-amid-global-food-crisis”

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