The fight continues against the food insecurity that Russia’s war is creating
Before Russia’s war of aggression, Ukraine was one of the world's leading exporters of agricultural products: the first one for sunflower seed oil, the fourth for maize and the fifth for wheat. And these exports were mainly destined for countries in the Global South: in 2021, 27 % of Ukrainian wheat went to North Africa and 58 % to Asia.
Ukraine used to supply around 45 million tonnes of grain to the global market every year, mostly by ships. Since the start of Russia’s war on 24 February, Russian armed forces have systematically targeted crops, farms, silos and transport infrastructures to limit Ukraine’s capacity to produce and export agricultural products. Russian fleet deliberately blocked safe passage to and from Ukrainian Black Sea ports.
“Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has contributed substantially to create food insecurity globally and put the livelihoods of millions of people at risk.”
This has contributed substantially to driving up world cereals prices, creating food insecurity globally and putting the livelihoods of millions of people at risk. It has severely affected the activities of the United Nations World Food Programme, which was buying half of its grain stock from Ukraine before the war. I recently visited Somalia and have seen first-hand the severity of the food insecurity caused by the cumulative effects of climate change and the war in Ukraine in that part of the world.
The crucial role of the Solidarity Lanes
In response to Russia’s unacceptable weaponization of food, two successful initiatives were taken. Last May, the European Commission and bordering EU member states established the EU-Ukraine Solidarity Lanes to facilitate and accelerate land freight transport between Ukraine and the EU and, in July, the United Nations and Türkiye brokered an agreement to open a safe maritime humanitarian corridor in the Black Sea (the Black Sea Grain Initiative).
Since the start of the Solidarity Lanes, more than 15 million tonnes of Ukrainian agricultural goods have been exported by road, rail and through Romanian Black Sea and Danube ports. These lanes are currently also the only option for the export of non-agricultural Ukrainian goods and for importing goods that Ukraine needs, such as fuel and humanitarian assistance. As such, they have become the lifeline of Ukraine's economy, bringing back more than €15 billion of much-needed income to Ukrainian farmers and businesses.