08.09.2022 Author: Vladimir Danilov

The West Gives Lip Service to Fighting Hunger

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Although the energy crisis and the impoverishment of Europe’s population due to the Russophobic sanctions policy of European leaders have been the main themes of the Western media in recent weeks, articles on the fight against hunger nevertheless continue to appear.

Above all, media publications are discussing the consequences of the Istanbul package of documents signed on July 22 to tackle the issue of food and fertilizer supplies on world markets in fighting hunger in several parts of the world. It should be recalled that one of the agreements regulates the procedure for grain exports from Kiev-controlled Black Sea ports, based on the need to urgently address the food crisis in developing countries.

The Director of the World Food Program, David Beasley, who spoke to CNN on August 21, said the daily ships carrying Ukrainian grain would solve problems with access to food around the world, improving the situation in Somalia, Ethiopia, northern Kenya and several other poorer countries where it is most needed.

However, as the German magazine Der Spiegel admitted on September 2, despite the UN’s initial stated aims to fight hunger, only 13 of the 63 cargo ships that had left Ukrainian ports as of early September were carrying wheat. According to the publication, the remaining vessels were mainly carrying corn, used overwhelmingly as animal feed or to produce biofuel. A dozen ships were loaded with soybean or sunflower products, which are also mainly used to feed livestock.

In this regard, the interview given on August 18 to the Rossiya Segodnya news agency by Pyotr Ilyichev, Director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for International Organizations, was quite remarkable. He stressed in particular that the 16 ships that had left Ukrainian ports up to that day, carrying 535,000 tons of wheat and fodder crops, had, to great surprise, gone not to needy developing countries, but to rich countries. In particular, to the UK, Ireland, Italy, France and the Republic of Korea – in other words, the countries which are not threatened by hunger but which need fodder for livestock. At the same time, many experts emphasize that Ukrainian grain, primarily corn, is mainly fodder grain. And such actions publicly neglect the urgent problems of Africa and other world’s poorest countries.

Mikhail Ulyanov, Permanent Representative of Russia to International Organizations in Vienna, said in August that ships carrying grain from Kiev-controlled Black Sea ports were primarily destined for countries not at all threatened by hunger.

On August 23, Vasily Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN, pointed out the same fact at a Security Council meeting on conflicts and food security, noting that of all 34 ships with grain that had left Ukraine, only one sailed to Africa, which needs this food. “Here, of course,” Nebenzia pointed out, “it is worth recalling the public image failure of the “pioneer” ship Razoni, which in fact brought to Lebanon not the wheat they had been waiting for, but corn, and at the same time, fodder.” The Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN also stressed that against this background, the reaction to UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ words at the UN Security Council on May 19 that 49 million people in 43 countries are threatened with famine and nearly 140 million people in 10 countries, including Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and several African states face severe food shortages, raises a lot of questions. As does the statement by the Secretary-General of the world organization in the port of Odessa that “grain exports and lower prices on global food markets will not bring relief to countries in need that cannot afford to buy it anyway.”

Meanwhile, Western politicians and media continue to persist in promoting the view that the main factor driving up grain prices is the restriction of Ukrainian grain supplies to importers, allegedly due to events in that country. However, an analysis of grain production and supply from Ukraine shows that the special operation currently taking place in that country has very limited influence on the situation with grain supply on the global food market. Because of Ukraine’s record 2021 harvest of grains, pulses and oilseeds, the increased supply of Ukrainian reserves further increases the supply of grain on the market and reduces the price of grain.

Overall, an analysis of the global food market shows that the destabilization of the market is not due to a decline in food production and supply, but to more fundamental causes. As Zhang Jun, Permanent Representative of China to the UN, emphasized at the UNSC meeting on May 19, 2022, “the current crisis once again brings to light the structural problems of the global food system. The world food supply and demand pattern is characterized by food production highly concentrated in a few countries, while consumer countries are geographically well dispersed. This makes the balance of food supply and demand highly vulnerable to extreme weather conditions pandemics, armed conflicts, and other emergency and unforeseen factors.”

Igor Kostyukov, Head of Main Directorate of General Staff of Russian Armed Forces, said in August at a Moscow conference on international security that Western countries were provoking a global food crisis by imposing restrictions on Russia. In particular, he stressed that well-functioning mechanisms for supplying grain and fertilizers to global consumers are being disrupted, leading to artificial price rises on world markets. For example, before the sanctions were imposed, Russia supplied more than 20 million tons of crops and about 11 million tons of fertilizers annually to the Middle East and North Africa, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and other countries. However, the West’s current Russophobic sanctions policy has disrupted this logistical process.

The pattern of world hunger is therefore not at all what Antony Blinken and Josep Borrell originally painted. The problem is the emergence of food shortages due to declining yields caused by a shortage of fertilizers from Russia and Belarus. And also because of attempts to impose on Russia, which, unlike Ukraine, is actually one of the world’s biggest grain exporters, restrictions in trade in food, including grain.

It is clear to everyone that rich countries will not suffer too much because of the fall in yields, and that they will solve their food problems by raising prices and eliminating certain products. For example, vegetables, which were available all year round thanks to cheap energy and greenhouse facilities, but in an economic crisis they will simply become seasonal again and unaffordable for most of the population during the cold season because of their price. The “civilized world” will try to solve all its global food problems at the expense of poor countries: food exchange prices will rise and it will be the rich who will buy it back to curb inflation in their own countries and contain popular discontent. Poor countries, on the other hand, may simply get nothing in such circumstances. Of course, the G7 leaders will demonstrate their ostentatious concern for the people of poor countries and even invent “humanitarian programs” whereby, for example, several ships carrying food will be sent to starving regions of Africa, presenting it through the Western media “as a massive operation to save Africans from starvation.” But this will save few, for the only thing that can save is a return of the world to adequate trade rules that do not involve the imposition of unilateral sanctions and other restrictions.

Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

 

 


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