EDITORIAL: Climate change is of course a real threat to food security the world over, but the Russia’s blockade of Ukraine food grain exports can also lead to starvation of millions. One-tenth of cereals and edible oil imported by needy countries come from Ukraine. But that is not being done – thanks to the Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea over the last couple of months.

The concern about Russian move to cause this crime against humanity is universal, but it is the European Union that is likely to take up with Moscow its blockade at the international level.

However, as things stand today there is only a faint hope that Russian leadership would oblige the world community and de-blockade the ports of Ukraine, particularly its main seaport at Odessa.

Since about two dozen Turkish ships are waiting at the Ukrainian ports to take the load of wheat and other food items it is presently playing host to a meeting of concerned parties in Istanbul. But a principal member of the European Union (EU), Germany, doesn’t share the Union’s optimism, saying “I don’t think much will come out of it … Brussels must look for a permanent alternate route”.

And, even if that is done it wouldn’t be in a position to channel out even one-fourth of the Ukraine grain product, which is about 55 million tonnes out of which 47.2 million was exported in 2021.

With wheat imports worth $495 million in 2019-2020 Pakistan happened to be one of the important importers. With wheat shortage being nearly 2 million tonnes the blockade of Ukranian ports should be a matter of serious concern to Islamabad as well. But is it so?

If history is any witness Russia has been a ruthless oppressor of Ukraine. Among the weapons it used against the rebellious-natured Ukrainians stiff control of their agricultural potential has been its prime weapon of war.

After the Russian Revolution, Ukraine declared its independence from Russia on January 12, 1918, and several years of warfare ensued with several groups. The Red Army finally was victorious over Kiev and next year Ukraine became a Soviet republic.

In the 1930s, the Soviet government’s enforcement of collectivization met with resistance, which in return prompted the confiscation of grain from Ukrainian farmers by the Soviet authorities; it is said the resulting famine took an estimated 5 million lives.

This year also the farming community is likely to plant up to a two-thirds less wheat if its exports are still blocked. That means if the blockade of wheat export is not lifted within next month and half Ukraine will not be able to supply wheat to nearly half of its importers, causing famish conditions in a number of African and Middle East countries.

In fact, there are quite a few African countries whose dependence on imported food grains is almost 100 percent. Of course, Russia is there to fill up the gap, but the question is why it should generate the possibility of hundreds of thousands going hungry.

To deprive people of means that sustain life is a war crime. Moscow is using the blockade of wheat-carrying ships as weapon of war. In other words, Russia is fighting its war not only in Ukraine but also in a number of other countries whose people live on food grains imported from Ukraine.

This should not have happened. The sooner Moscow reviews its position the better, both for its own image as a world power and vindication of its heritage as birthplace of communism.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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