Russia’s war in Ukraine, and not the sanctions imposed on Moscow, is what is causing an escalating global food crisis, the EU’s top diplomat said Monday.
“They are causing scarcity. They are bombing Ukrainian cities and provoking hunger in the world,” Josep Borrell told a media conference after chairing a meeting of EU foreign ministers.
He said the Russian military was “sowing bombs on Ukraine’s fields, and Russian warships have blockaded tens of ships full of wheat”.
“They are bombing and destroying the stocks of wheat and preventing this wheat to be exported,” he said.
Borrell warned that in addition to the violent battles raging on the ground in Ukraine, “there is another battle: a battle of narrative”.
While Moscow, he said, was attempting to portray Western sanctions as “responsible for the food scarcity and rising prices,” it was Russia that was “provoking hunger in the world by blocking the ports, the wheat, and by destroying the stores of wheat in Ukraine”.
“Stop blaming the sanctions,” he said. “It is the Russian military that is causing food scarcity.”
His comments came after the United Nations warned last week that global food prices hit an all-time high in March following Russia’s invasion of agricultural powerhouse Ukraine.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization said the disruption to exports resulting from the February 24 invasion, coupled with the international sanctions on Russia, had spurred fears of a global hunger crisis.
Concerns were especially acute in the Middle East and Africa, where knock-on effects were already playing out.
Russia and Ukraine possess vast grain-growing regions that are among the world’s main breadbaskets. Their harvests represent big shares of the globe’s exports in several major commodities, including wheat, vegetable oil, and corn.
Russia and Ukraine together accounted for around 30 percent and 20 percent of global wheat and maize exports, respectively, over the past three years, the FAO said.
The FAO estimates famine in West Africa and the Sahel regions—both highly dependent on Russian and Ukrainian grains—could worsen and affect over 38 million people by June if no measures are taken.