Russia’s foreign minister has denied that his country was responsible for the global spike in food prices following its invasion of Ukraine as shipping companies continue to avoid the war-torn nation.
Speaking during his visit to several African countries, Sergei Lavrov dismissed the ‘so-called food crisis’ and accused the US and Europe of driving up prices by implementing ‘reckless’ green policies .
He also claimed that countries had hoarded food during the COVID-19 pandemic, which had contributed to rising costs.
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“The situation in Ukraine has additionally affected food markets negatively, but not because of the Russian special operation, but rather because of the absolutely inadequate reaction of the West, which announced sanctions,” Mr. Lavrov to reporters.
The West has repeatedly pointed out that food is exempt from their sanctions on Russia and blamed Moscow for the global crisis.
Ukraine and Russia are the world’s main suppliers of wheat, barley, maize and sunflower oil, with fighting in the Black Sea region blamed for driving up food prices, threatening political stability in developing countries and inducing countries to ban certain food exports, thus aggravating the crisis.
Last week, a revolutionary agreement to provide safe corridors across the Black Sea for trapped grain from Ukraine has been achieved.
But, Mr Lavrov said the deal could have been announced “a long, long time ago” if it weren’t for “Western stubbornness in insisting that they are always right”.
Despite the agreement, many shipping companies avoided helping to export the roughly 20 million tonnes of grain because explosive mines drifted in the surrounding waters.
“We have to work very hard to understand now in detail how this is going to work practically,” said Guy Platten, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping, which represents national shipowners’ associations.
“Can we ensure and guarantee the safety of the crews? What is going to happen with the mines and the minefields as well? So a lot of uncertainties and unknowns at the moment,” he said. declared.
The complexities of the deal have set off a slow start for shipowners, but it is only valid for 120 days – and the countdown began last week.
Over the next four months, it is hoped that four or five large bulk carriers will transport grain daily from ports and deliver it to millions of poor people around the world.
Another key part of the pact offers assurances that ships and insurers carrying Russian grain and fertilizer will not be caught in the wider net of Western sanctions.
But the agreement has not already been without difficulties, with Russian missiles hit Ukrainian port of Odessa – one of those included in the deal – just hours after the pact was signed.
The pact stipulates that Russia and Ukraine will provide “maximum assurances” to ships that brave the journey across the Black Sea to the Ukrainian ports of Odessa, Chornomorsk and Yuzhne.
Lavrov added that Russian and Turkish ships will escort vessels stranded in Ukrainian ports across the Black Sea once Ukraine clears its coastline.
Shipowners, charterers and insurance companies seek to understand how the transaction will unfold in real time.
“I think it will depend on the position of marine insurers who provide war risk and how much they are going to add in additional costs for ships to go to this area,” said Michelle Wiese Bockmann, shipping and goods. analyst at the global shipping information publication Lloyd’s List.
Ms Bockmann said ships carrying this type of load usually have between 20 and 25 sailors on board.
“You can’t risk those lives without something concrete and acceptable for shipowners and their charterers to transport grain,” she said.
Meanwhile, Frederick Kenney, director of legal and external affairs at the International Maritime Organization expressed confidence in the deal that has been signed – as he said as soon as the center which will oversee grain exports opened in Istanbul.
“I’m convinced it will be a successful initiative,” he said on Wednesday.
“All parties here have expressed their commitment to making this initiative a reality and operationalizing it and I think that is demonstrated by the fact that all parties have brought older people here at extremely short notice.”
Getting wheat and other food is essential for Ukrainian farmers, who lack storage capacity as they harvest their fields.
Some places facing food shortages – even starvation
These grains are vital for millions of people in Africa, parts of the Middle East and South Asia, who are already facing food shortages and, in some cases, starvation.
A few weeks ago, African leaders traveled to Moscow to voice their food concerns, but many did not openly criticize Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
During his tour, Lavrov sought to reassure leaders worried about soaring grain prices and justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which he called a “threat” to his country’s border. country.
He also claimed that most countries do not support Western sanctions against Russia, calling them “essentially obvious from the fact that, with the exception of two or three countries, nobody in Africa, Asia or Latin America” did not join them.
The Ethiopian government made no public comment on the war in Ukraine or the food crisis during Lavrov’s visit, with state media reporting only that Russia and Ethiopia had agreed to strengthen economic ties.
How long will it take for the ports to be operational?
With grain needs not diminishing, Ukrainian officials have expressed hope that exports could resume from one of the ports in a few days.
But they also warned that it could take two weeks for all three ports to be operational.
Since the start of the war in late February, 22 bulk carriers and freighters have been stuck in ports, according to data from Lloyd’s List Intelligence.
About 13 are moored in Chornomorsk, six in Odessa and three in Yuzhne.
For ships heading to ports, smaller Ukrainian pilot boats will guide ships through approved lanes.
Once at their destination, they will be filled with tens of thousands of tonnes of grain before heading back to the Bosphorus Strait, where they will be inspected for weapons by officials from Ukraine, Russia, the United Nations and Turkey.