World Food Programme warns of mass starvation due to Russian blockade of Black Sea ports

A tanker anchored in Odesa
A tanker anchored in Odesa Copyright AP
Copyright AP
By Mark Armstrong with AP, AFP
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Experts have sounded the alarm that if ports around Odessa remain closed, shortages of grain, oil and other goods will trigger famine and migration crises the world over.


The World Food Programme is warning of an impending catastrophic failure in food supply chains caused by Russia's blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports.

Besieged Ukraine is often described world's bread basket. But now ships can't get out of the ports.

Speaking at the Quad summit held together with the leaders of Japan, Australia, and India, US president Joe Biden said the war is a global issue.

"The global food crisis is made worse by Russia blocking Ukraine from exporting its millions of tons of grain," he said.

The world, he said, was at a “transformative moment” and the Russia-Ukraine war was not only a European but a global issue:  "As long as Russia continues the war, the United States will work with our partners to help lead a global response, because it can affect all parts of the world."

The UK is in discussion with allies about sending warships to the Black Sea to protect freight ships conveying Ukrainian grain overseas, in what it called a “coalition of the willing.”

A ticking time bomb

There are fears that time is running out to avert a world food crisis. The World Food Programme's executive director, David Beasley, said failure to open the Black Sea ports soon would be is "a declaration of war" sparking global food insecurity. 

He added: "The silos are full. Why are the silos full? Because the ports are not operating... It is absolutely essential that we allow these ports to open, because this is not just about Ukraine, this is about the poorest of the poor around the world, who are on the brink of starvation as we speak.”

Kees Huizinga is a Dutch farmer in Ukraine. "There's still 25 million tons and grain and oilseeds left in Ukraine," he told reporters, "that's a third of last year's harvest, so we already have a huge logistical problems. 

"So I mean, it's already late, it's already too late, but.the only option to get the grain out of Ukraine is through the Black Sea ports. They have to be open".

Ukraine and Russia together export a third of the world's wheat and barley supplies and half of its sunflower oil, while Russia is a top supplier of fertilizer, which has recently surged in price too.

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