Some 27 ships loaded with grain have left Ukraine’s Black Sea ports since August 1 under an export deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, which has laid “the groundwork for a permanent peace environment,” Turkey’s Defense Minister said in a speech on Saturday.
“Since August 1, a total of 53 vessels have sailed for grain shipments, 27 of which have departed from Ukrainian ports,” Hulusi Akar said at Istanbul’s Joint Coordination Center (JCC) alongside United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
The center is made up of Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN officials overseeing the Black Sea exports of Ukrainian grain and fertilizer.
Guterres, who had earlier inspected the vessel SSI Invincible II Saturday before it sailed to the Ukrainian port of Chornomorsk, said more than 650,000 metric tons of grain and other food “are already on their way to markets around the world.”
Both men stressed the importance of these exports as it would help overcome “the food crisis affecting the whole world, especially to lowering prices,” Akar said.
Russia and Ukraine are also major suppliers of key components of fertilizer: urea, potash and phosphate. “Without fertilizer in 2022, there may not be enough food in 2023. Getting more food and fertilizer out of Ukraine and Russia is critical to further calm commodity markets and lower prices for consumers,” Guterres said.
“We are at the beginning of a much longer process, but you have already shown the potential of this critical agreement for the world,” Guterres added.
The breakthrough agreement, brokered by the UN and Turkey, and signed by representatives from Russia and Ukraine in July, promised to unblock ports on the Black Sea to allow the safe passage of grain and oilseeds, following routes identified by Ukrainian maritime pilots to avoid mines, and with stops in Istanbul to ensure weapons are not being smuggled back into the country.
The food crisis
The deal followed months of diplomacy and sparked hopes around the world after the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports pushed grain commodity prices to record highs this year as more than 20 million metric tons of Ukraine’s wheat and corn remained trapped in Odesa.
After meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the western city of Lviv on Thursday, Guterres said there were signs that global food markets were beginning to stabilize in the wake of the agreement.
He later called on developed nations to help developing countries purchase grain. “The movement of grains doesn’t mean much to countries that cannot afford it,” Guterres said on Friday in Odesa.
“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. Developing countries need access to financing – now. They need debt relief – now. They need resources to invest in their people – now,” he added.
Global hunger has increased massively, from 135 million people acutely food insecure in 2019 to 345 million in 2022, according to the World Food Programme (WFP). It includes “50 million people in 45 countries that are knocking on famine’s door,” David Beasley, WFP’s executive director, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on July 20, as he called on other donor countries, like Gulf nations, to step in an “avert catastrophe.”
Today’s crisis is far worse than the previous food price spikes of 2007 to 2008 and 2010 to 2012, which both fueled riots around the world, including revolutions in the Middle East.
Food security experts have warned of huge geopolitical risk if action is not taken. This year has already witnessed political destabilization in “Sri Lanka, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, riots and protests taking place in Kenya, Peru, Pakistan, Indonesia … these are only signs things to come is going to get worse,” Beasley said.
CNN’s Jorge Engels contributed to this report.