World Food Grain Shortage Looms as Russia Blocks a Top Ukrainian Export

With sea routes closed due to Russia's war with Ukraine, a representative of the United Nations (U.N.) World Food Program has said nearly four and half million tons of grain are blocked in Ukraine's ports, with far-reaching impacts around the world.

Martin Frick sought for Ukraine's ability to resume supplying food to other countries to lessen a global food crisis, according to the dpa news agency report published Sunday.

"Hunger doesn't have to be a weapon," Frick said.

Ukraine, combined with Russia, accounted for about 30 percent of global wheat exports and 20 percent of corn exports in the last three years, according to the U.N.

Ukraine port grain blocked
Nearly four and half million tons of grain are blocked in Ukraine’s ports, a representative of the U.N. World Food Program said in a report Sunday. Above, a view of the port of Mariupol on April 29 amid the ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine. ANDREY BORODULIN/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

In April, it issued a statement saying the "conflict has driven up international prices for wheat, maize and vegetable oils" and recorded a food-price hike in March that was "up 12.6 percent from February when it had already reached its highest level since its inception in 1990."

The organization has said previously that the "ongoing conflict in Ukraine has created not only an immediate humanitarian crisis, but also a threat to future global food security in the form of rising prices and decreased production capabilities."

Countries such as Yemen, Egypt and Lebanon depend on Ukrainian grain, according to the U.N. And in the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia, supply disruptions and price increases have threatened the food situation, according to the dpa report.

The war will bring global impacts to countries and regions already in crisis, where rising food prices "will hit hard now and in the coming seasons," said Joyce Msuya, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, in March.

In addition to the blocked products, other problems persist surrounding grain.

Taras Vysotskiy, Ukrain's deputy agriculture minister, accused Russian forces on Saturday of stealing "several hundred thousand tons" of grain," according to Radio Free Europe report.

"Today, there are confirmed facts that several hundred thousand tons of grain in total were taken out of the Zaporizhzhya, Kherson, Donetsk, and Luhansk regions," Vysotskiy said.

The thefts were on the rise over the last two weeks, said Ukrainian Agriculture Minister Mykola Solskiy.

"I personally hear this from many silo owners in the occupied territory. This is outright robbery. And this is happening everywhere in occupied territory," Solskiy said.

The Kremlin, according to the report, denied the allegations.

An in late March, the Russian Navy blocked access to Ukrainian ports, stopping Kyiv's grain export and stopping 94 ships with food from entering the Mediterranean, according to U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman.

Newsweek reached out to the U.N. World Food Program and Russian officials for comment.