Opinion | On Inflation and the Food Crisis, the World Can Work Together or Fall Apart

As is often the case, the poorest countries bear the brunt, and history shows that hunger can quickly turn deadly. Nigeria, Somalia, Ethiopia, Egypt and Yemen are already feeling the pain of food shortages, the Washington Post notes; the price hike has sparked protests in Argentina, Indonesia, Tunisia and Sri Lanka, among other countries.

The biggest constraint to Ukraine’s grain export is the country’s inability to use its main Black Sea port, Odessa. Ukraine has tried instead to ship its grain by road, rail and river, but these methods fall far short of what would be exported through Ukrainian ports. Before the Russian invasion, Ukraine exported an average of 3.5 million tons of grain per month. This fell to 300,000 tonnes in March and rose to just over a million tonnes in April.

Odessa could handle the volume, and it’s still under Ukrainian control. The problem is warships and mines blocking navigation. Russia has indicated that it is ready to open a secure channel from Odessa, but it would expect the lifting of certain sanctions in exchange. The United States and its allies resisted the lifting of any sanctions; Ukrainians say that Russia cannot be trusted.

Hurry up. Winter wheat is ripe and about 25 million tonnes of grain, according to United Nations estimates, in Ukraine could rot if not exported quickly. Even an immediate deal to clear the way to Odessa would take weeks to organize a large flotilla willing to risk entering a war zone and pay for the necessary insurance and escort. The use of NATO ships could create the danger of a direct confrontation with Russian warships, which Western allies intend to avoid.

UN Secretary General António Guterres said “there is no effective solution to the food crisis without reintegrating food production from Ukraine, as well as food and fertilizers produced by Russia. and Belarus, in world markets, despite the war”. He suggested, in effect, that the United States and Europe ease existing sanctions on Russian and Belarusian agricultural exports in exchange for free movement of Ukrainian grain to the world.

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