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The G7 warns of a global hunger crisis if Russia does not lift its blockade on Ukraine

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German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the G7 group of industrialized countries was urgently looking for alternative routes for Ukrainian grain exports, as Russia’s war against its western neighbor raised the risk of a global “hunger crisis”.

Speaking at the end of a three-day meeting of G7 foreign ministers in Germany, Baerbock said about 25 million tonnes of grain had been stranded in Ukrainian ports being blocked by Russian forces – “the grain the world urgently needs”.

“Any ton we can draw will help a little to catch this hunger crisis,” she said. “In the situation we are in, every week matters.”

Wheat prices have risen in recent weeks due to supply disruptions caused by the war in Ukraine, as well as a series of droughts around the world.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicted that global supplies for the next crop year would fall for the first time in four years.

Concerns over the supply situation deepened on Saturday when India announced it was halting grain exports, a move likely to boost food prices and fuel hunger in poor countries that rely on Indian grain imports.

The government in New Delhi said the ban was designed to “manage the country’s overall food security”.

Wheat line chart CBOT ($ per buhel) showing that wheat futures are up 50% this year

The issue of food emerged as one of the key issues in the G7 ministers’ weekend discussions. Their final communiqué said that Russia’s war had “generated one of the worst food and energy crises in recent history, which now threatens those most affected around the globe.”

He said the G7 was “determined to accelerate a coordinated multilateral response to safeguard global food security and to stay close to our most vulnerable partners in this regard”.

Baerbock said the easiest way to resolve the food crisis would be for Russia to halt its military operations and allow grain to leave Ukrainian ports, a move that would help “normalize global food prices.” . But she said Russian President Vladimir Putin showed no inclination to do so.

Instead, Western governments were looking at alternatives to the sea route. She said about 5-6 million tonnes of grain a month are normally exported through Ukrainian ports and the G7 “was analyzing various railway routes that would allow us to extract grain as soon as possible”.

So far, she said, Ukrainians had managed to transport only a “part” of their grain crop by rail, via Romania. “But the obstacle there is due to the fact that Ukraine has a different footprint [to Romania]”It’s the same for other connections, for example, with Poland – freight cars can not pass alone.”

She said G7 ministers had also discussed using Baltic ports to export grain. “But you have to reach them first.” “There will not be a perfect solution as long as [Russian] “the bombings are continuing,” she said.

In their statement, G7 ministers expressed “deep concern” about the worsening food insecurity and malnutrition worldwide, which was exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian war in Ukraine.

“Food prices and costs for humanitarian agencies to provide assistance to those most in need are rising, at a time when 45 million people are already one step away from famine,” he said.

The G7 foreign ministers also signaled that the West was prepared to continue assisting Ukraine’s military in its fight against Russia for years to come. “We will pursue our continued military and defense assistance to Ukraine for as long as necessary,” the ministers said.

But Baerbock was calm about a proposal put forward by Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba and approved this week by Joseph Borrel, the EU’s foreign policy chief, to use Russian assets seized by Western governments to to finance the reconstruction of Ukraine. “Capturing frozen money is anything but simple in legal terms,” ​​Baerbock said. “Such steps must be able to pass. . . before the European Court of Justice ”.

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