Things have got very dangerous on the Black Sea bordering Ukraine and Russia, with the recent expiry of the agreement to allow grain shipments through that waterway – all related to the conflict in Ukraine. And there is the promise of the possibility, now by each side that they would sink each other’s ships, grain or no grain in them – and even, foreign registered vessels of all kinds. It is oil to the fires of war. But also importantly, these developments are extremely unhealthy to the food insecure, including to many Indians.
What then are the facts on how much this war is badly impacting global and regional food security and even India specifically. In a World Bank report of April last year, it stated, “Ukraine and Russia account for 29% of global wheat experts and 62% of sunflower oil. This invasion is likely to exacerbate food price inflation in emerging markets and developing economies and impact some of the poorest and most vulnerable countries.” Knowledge for Policy underlines in its own report on food security that South Asia, including India is very susceptible to the impact of that war because so many disadvantaged live there. And, according to CSIS, a US think tank, “Nonetheless, the invasion (of Ukraine) is worsening malnutrition for millions and delaying the provision of humanitarian assistance for those suffering the worst forms of food insecurity.” And from the head of the UN World Food Programe, 345 million people are looking seriously at the increased risk of starving as a result of the war in Ukraine.
As well, these hostilities in Ukraine are really an attack on the poor of the world especially of the South. Every attack on the Black Sea, be it for example by crushing missile attacks on Ukrainian ports, agricultural related infrastructure as retaliation on Kiev’s bombing of Russia’s bridge to Crimea represent essentially offensives against food getting to the starving. These types of impacts also affect those struggling with food costs.Thus, this war may be the worse “Food fight” the world has ever seen in a major sense. So the casualties of this conflict go well beyond Russians and Ukrainians yet this War on Food gets subordinated attention at NATO meetings that should see it as a priority of “new terrorism” to fight. One might call it that, given the way the victims in India and beyond feel the effects from weaponized food? All done at times either to get attention to one belligerent side’s demands for more support to finish off the other, or to hold hostage the hungry of the world in another side’s seeking sanctions relief in various forms? This can be just plain disgusting when done so.
Let us also not forget that food inflation has even got up to around 20% in so-called, well-off places like Britain, whose many citizens cannot that well afford the impact of disruptions in major grain supplies. Yet, certain London elites are escalating and extending the war by adding dangerous weapons, such as long range missiles into the Ukraine battle theatre. Go figure?
But then who would have thought that this war and associated western sanctions and reactions to them would bexome so devastating to so many in the South, before the North got so enmeshed in this conflict? The overall North did not have a thought or concern about it at the war start . And, it is a South that does not even have a permanent seat, even through highly populated India at the major global meeting place on war and peace – the UN Security Council – to better drive its point forward to stop this war madness. It is so sadly like that as the esteemed, Indian External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar has clearly stated that Europe expects the world to be so concerned about that continent’s own problems, but not so much about the rest of the world. This includes what happens to his own country getting “kicked” by the food supply restrictions related to the war in and about Ukraine?
Yet, as Sergey Lavrov, seasoned foreign minister of Russia has stated, most of the grain and oil seeds that got through the Black Sea before the previous agreement was terminated on July, 20 this year, ended up at western ports instead of those of the needy, developing countries’. If true, this a very sad statement underscoring what Jaishankar has stated: The North especially the West seems to disconnect in really caring in tangible ways, too often with how this war they advertise should still be fought, which is starving many of food and nutrition.
But now, the recent news gets uglier as it piles on to the curren impact of climate change that is so worsening, leading to ever increasing displaced general populations , farmers and “environmental” refugees. But hopefully a new grain deal may be in the offering that may change as of this writing or somewhat later. But that may be too hopeful as Russia did not renew it specifically because, essentially sanctions have made it near impossible for it to get sufficient insurance for its ships and a financial vehicle to get paid for its agricultural exports.The West’s response seems to be relatively muted to unblock important obstacles to get the grain flowing. Instead, it simply says or implies that if Russia ended the war all would be well. A lot that moral posturing does for the hungry bloated bellies of starving children or near empty bellies of school children, which inhibits them from learning and developing properly, physically and mentally.
Maybe, just out of trying to prove further to itself and others how more indecent the West is, Russia should nevertheless renew the grain export agreement and increase the free food it is sending. And where possible, the UN World Food Programe, generously supported by the United States and its allies in parallel, should step up to deal with the increasing food insecurity due to this horrible war in Ukraine.
But given the facts laid out in this article on the impact of the world supplies of certain grains no longer coming from the Ukraine and Russian Bread Basket, possibly nothing better can help the food insecure than NATO, Ukraine and Russia ending this war, like yesterday. The war on terrorism especially by India, as well as the West is well justified in many instances. But ironically the War on Food by the North is terrorism by another name by the way it is felt by the dying, hungry and even from some of those in the middle classes struggling to get enough food in the table and at affordable prices. How long can this last one has to wonder? The North must stop sitting on its hands and stop this War on Food at the very least. Period.
Peter Dash an educator has lived in the global South for well over a decade. He writes extensively on geopolitics.