U.S steps up efforts to deter Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as world stares at food crisis in years

The United States is stepping up efforts to deter Russia’s invasion of Ukrane three months on, a situation that has caused a global food crisis over millions of grain that has been stuck at the port.

US Special Envoy for Global Food Security, Dr. Cary Fowler, and Ambassador Jim O’Brien, Head of the Office of Sanctions Coordination says the unprovoked war of aggression of Russia into Ukraine has greatly exacerbated the global food crisis. Dr. Carry adds that though the world has experienced  a food crisis before, the current  is unique in many ways because it’s multicausal.

.Dr. Cary Fowler who is the new Special Envoy for Global Food Security at the Department of State.

‘We’re dealing with climate change, we’re dealing with conflict, and we’re dealing with COVID. The situation in the Ukraine has, by all estimates, pushed – is pushing about 40 million additional people into the ranks of the food-insecure, a totally unnecessary situation’ said Dr. Carry.

Speaking Thursday during a digital press briefing held by the US Department of State, Jim O’Brien, Head of the Office of Sanctions Coordination stressed that US  policy is trying to deter Russia from continuing its invasion and occupation of Ukraine. US says the invasion is a grotesque violation of every norm of international law adding that US sanctions aims at detering further aggression of Ukraine by Russia.

Jim made it clear that the US does not sanction Russian food and fertilizer, and further that their  European colleagues are not restricting Russian exports to the Global South.  Amb. Jim rubbished claims that US sanctions are causing the problem and that the claims are misleading. He further explained that  some African countries have  limitations on importing Russian food and fertilizer into their own territories.

Amb. Jim says that the US is working hard to try to fix the problems caused by this invasion.

”So where we hear of problems, we will address them directly. Sometimes companies are confused about what’s allowed and what’s not, and we will try to clarify so that they are able to go forward. But we are also working proactively by trying to inform companies about what they are allowed to do so that it’s clear there’s nothing stopping Russia from exporting its food and fertilizer except decisions Russia has made” said Amb. Jim

According to experts, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has disrupted one of the most productive ways that countries received grain.

Ukraine used to export 6 million tons of grain a month, mostly to the Global South. And now that has had to stop; in March and April, it was very small. US and other European partners are working very hard to get out as much grain as possible, but at best it will probably be about half what it was before, and that’s because Russia has occupied or destroyed 30-odd percent of Ukraine’s grain-producing capability.

It is attacking grain storage and processing facilities. Early this week Russia forces attacked Ukraines silos in Mykolaiv setting some ablaze.

”So we’re working to fix all that, and we’re hoping that with our Ukrainian partners that we can get maybe about half of what Ukraine would export in a normal year out to markets. But that takes a lot of work, and we’re doing our best to do that, but it’s all back to the fact that one of the world’s major grain producers has been invaded, and that’s the situation we’re trying to address” said Amb Jim.

When asked  Why Africa is most affected by the current food insecurity, Dr. Fowler explained that the current Russia-Ukraine war shows how interdependent countries are with each other.

The majority of countries in the world are net food importers, and in terms of Africa, probably 70 percent of the food that’s produced in Africa stays in Africa. Dr. Fowler explained that  trade needs  to flow and that  food needs to flow between countries, and that any small disturbance in the global food system can cause ripple effects, most dramatically in Africa.

Ukraine produces enough grain to feed about 400 million people, and that’s sitting in silos right now in Ukraine, unable to get out. And in a highly interdependent world, this is going to cause food-price spikes, food-supply availability problems, and that’s going to have an impact on Africa first and foremost

On the role of the U.S. in the case of food insecurity in Africa, specifically on the Horn of Africa Dr. Fowler said The United States has certainly, since last year, devoted, invested quite a lot of funding into the Horn of Africa amounting to about $500 million for humanitarian assistance and that they will provide more in the future.

Dr. Fowler said ”One of the things we really must do, though, going forward is to help develop more productive and resilient food systems. We have a program at the United States Agency for International Development that we call Feed the Future. We’re in the process of expanding that program. We’re supporting a great deal of research around the globe in international agricultural research centers and even in some of our own universities in the United States – for example, to develop drought-tolerant maize. We have I think about 16 million acres of U.S.-supported drought-tolerant maize in Africa right now

Dr. Fowler is, however, concerned that the farmers in Ukraine, who are on the front lines of the war against hunger because Ukraine is such a breadbasket for the world and particularly for the Near East and Africa, shouldn’t have to be on the front lines of a war, defending their country from an invasion by a neighboring country.

He says that the farmers  should continue to be on the front lines of fighting hunger instead of fighting the real shooting war. Dr. Fowler says that fighting in war is  something that Ukraine farmers  can’t do right now, mentioning  that there  are at least 20 million metric tons of grain sitting in the Ukraine which could be put into the world market, and historically and traditionally would be going primarily to the Near East and Africa.

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