“Since August 1, a total of 53 ships have sailed for grain transport, 27 of which have left Ukrainian ports,” Hulusi Akar said along with United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the Joint Coordinating Center (JCC) in Istanbul.
The center consists of Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish and UN officials who oversee Black Sea exports of Ukrainian grain and fertilizers.
Guterres, who inspected the SSI Invincible II ship Saturday before it sailed into Ukraine’s port of Chornomorsk, said more than 650,000 tons of grain and other foodstuffs “are already on their way to markets around the world.”
Both men stressed the importance of these exports as they would help “overcome the food crisis that is affecting the whole world, especially with falling prices,” Akar said.
Russia and Ukraine are also important suppliers of key components of fertilizers: urea, potash and phosphate. “Without fertilizer in 2022, there may not be enough food in 2023. Getting more food and fertilizer from Ukraine and Russia is critical to further calming commodity markets and lowering prices for consumers,” Guterres said.
“We are at the beginning of a much longer process, but you have already demonstrated the potential of this crucial deal for the world,” Guterres added.
The landmark deal, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey and signed by officials from Russia and Ukraine in July, promised to open up Black Sea ports to allow for the safe passage of grain and oilseeds, on routes that identified by Ukrainian sea pilots to avoid mines, and with stops in Istanbul to ensure no weapons are smuggled back into the country.
The Food Crisis
The deal followed months of diplomacy and raised hopes around the world after the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports pushed grain commodity prices to record highs this year as more than 20 million tons of Ukrainian wheat and corn remained locked in Odessa.
After meeting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday in the western city of Lviv, Guterres said there were signs global food markets were beginning to stabilize after the deal.
He later urged developed nations to help developing countries buy grain. “Transporting grain doesn’t mean much to countries that can’t afford it,” Guterres said in Odessa on Friday.
“It’s time for massive and generous support so developing countries can buy the food from this and other ports – and the people can buy it. Developing countries need access to finance – now. You need debt relief – now. They need to invest resources in their people – now,” he added.
According to the World Food Program (WFP), global hunger has increased massively, from 135 million people acutely food insecure in 2019 to 345 million in 2022. This includes “50 million people in 45 countries knocking on the door of famine,” it said David Beasley, Executive Director of the WFP, speaking before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on July 20 when he urged other donor countries such as the Gulf States to intervene to “avoid disaster”.
Today’s crisis is far worse than the previous food price spikes of 2007-08 and 2010-2012, both of which fueled unrest around the world, including revolutions in the Middle East.
Food security experts have warned of a huge geopolitical risk if no action is taken. This year has already witnessed political destabilization in “Sri Lanka, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, riots and protests in Kenya, Peru, Pakistan, Indonesia … these are just signs things are getting worse,” Beasley said.
CNN’s Jorge Engels contributed to this report.