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World News

Christian charity welcomes Russia's agreement to lift ban on Ukrainian grain exports

by Donna Birrell

The Christian aid agency CAFOD is welcoming Russia's agreement to lift a blockade preventing grain from being exported from Ukraine. 

Russia agreed to let Ukraine move grain shipments out of its Black Sea ports because it faced growing global condemnation over the ban which was worsening an already global food crisis.  

Graham Gordon, Head of Policy for CAFOD,  told Premier:  "This is great news, because there's 20 million tonnes of grain in the ports waiting to be exported. I think as soon as this grain can be exported this should alleviate some of the crises in some of the worst affected countries like in the Horn of Africa, Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia, that's where they're really seeing people who are suffering acute malnutrition, because they can't get the grain that they need."

Russia imposed the ban on exports of grain from Ukraine's ports after its invasion of the country on the 24th of February. That worsened a global food crisis with prices soaring and countries dependent on Ukrainian grain particularly badly affected. Somalia relies on about 95 percent of its grain from Ukraine and Russia with Kenya receiving about half of all its grain from those countries. 

Graham Gordon says the worst affected countries had to impose strict measures as a result of the ban : 

"In South Sudan, we're seeing the World Food Programme has been asking for more money so they can buy this grain, but also had to suspend some of its rationing over the last few weeks. We're seeing people who are dying as a result. So this will certainly alleviate some of the worst impacted countries due to their current global food crisis.

"It's not going to filter through straightaway, it's going to take some days, but we've already seen some impacts in terms of global food prices which have fallen by a couple of percent. This has impacted countries like Nigeria where they've called off a bread strike and other countries that can get current grain now at cheaper prices. But of course, this highlights our broken food system. It highlights that countries are too dependent on a few products like wheat or rice. We need to think about diversifying their food system and not to rely on such long supply chains." 

The war in Ukraine is not the only cause of the global food crisis. East Africa and Kenya for example are suffering the worst drought in 40 years and four failed harvests due to climate change. Graham Gordon says the world needs to redouble its efforts to limit global temperatures and diversify its food systems. He also says farmers need support to grow different types of crops and locally adaptable grains :

"We're encouraging the UK government, the World Bank and other organisations to be supporting countries to diversify, so that when crises like this happen again, whether it's through climate change or Covid, or conflict where supply chains are disrupted, then the global food supplies or local food supplies won't be disrupted as much in the future and we don't get the same devastating consequences."


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