By Tom Espiner
(BBC) – A food crisis kicked off by the Ukraine war could last for years without intervention, the head of the World Trade Organization has said.
African countries could be hit especially hard by wheat and fertilizer shortages, WTO director general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told the BBC.
Millions of tonnes of grain are sitting in warehouses and Ukrainian ports unable to be exported due to the war.
She said that was “really sad” to see as grain prices soar.
Ukraine is a major global exporter of wheat, contributing to 9% of the global market. It also accounts for a massive 42% chunk of the global sunflower oil market, and 16% of the world’s maize.
Because of gridlock due to a Russian blockade of Black Sea ports, and Russian and Ukrainian mines along the coast, between 20 and 25 million tonnes of wheat are stuck in Ukraine while global grain prices spiral upwards.
Ms Okonjo-Iweala said wheat prices had risen 59% compared with last year, sunflower oil was up 30%, while maize was 23% higher.
The United Nations is leading efforts to try to establish a “grain corridor” with a Turkish naval escort for tankers leaving Odessa and other Ukrainian ports.
But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said Ukraine needs to clear mines from its Black Sea ports.
“We state daily that we’re ready to guarantee the safety of vessels leaving Ukrainian ports and heading for [Turkish waters], we’re ready to do that in cooperation with our Turkish colleagues,” he said on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Ukraine has said it needs “effective security guarantees” before it can start shipments, voicing concerns that Moscow could use the potential corridor to attack Odessa from the sea.