Ukraine minister seeks G7 help to export 40 million tonnes of grain

Around 20 million tons of grain are currently still stocked in Ukraine from the previous harvest and are waiting to be exported, Solskyj explained, while farmers have also started the spring sowing campaign. [RONALD WITTEK/EPA-EFE]

Global food security and the impact of Russia’s invasion are high on the agenda of the G7 agriculture ministers meeting on Friday and Saturday (13-14 May), with Ukrainian minister Mykola Solskyj as a special guest.

“The war aggravates the situation of global food security significantly and demonstrates once again the impact that conflicts have on global food security,” German Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir, who hosts the meeting as part of the country’s G7 presidency, said in his opening speech on Friday.

The Green minister also welcomed the participation of his Ukrainian counterpart, who he already met with bilaterally ahead of the summit.

“It is invaluable to get information first-hand from you today on the situation of agriculture in your country,” Özdemir told his colleague.

A major concern Solskyj is expected to discuss with the G7 ministers is how to support Ukraine logistically to help export grain, as its ports are blocked or destroyed by Russia.

“It is very important for us to coordinate with the seven countries [of the G7], as we are looking for opportunities to support Ukraine in its current situation,” he told reporters after his meeting with the German minister.

Around 20 million tonnes of grain are currently still stored in Ukraine from the previous harvest and are waiting to be exported, Solskyj explained, while farmers have also started the spring sowing campaign.

“We are aware that yields will be much lower this year than in the last couple of years, but I still expect that we will get an extra 30 to 40 million tonnes of wheat that will then need to be exported,” he added.

On Thursday (12 May), the European Commission announced it would introduce so-called “solidarity lanes” to improve the logistics for grain exports from Ukraine to EU countries, including by rail.

Commission opens 'solidarity lanes' to strengthen EU-Ukraine food export

The European Commission has introduced new so-called ‘solidarity lanes’ to improve EU-Ukraine connectivity for grain export, including through railways, amid the blockade of Ukrainian ports due to the Russian invasion.

Solskyj called on the G7, who include EU countries France, Italy, and Germany, plus the US, Canada, Japan, and the UK, to also ramp up export support measures.

“We, as well as the G7, are aware that the situation globally also depends on this,” he said, referring to Ukraine’s role as a major supplier of grain worldwide.

Stabilising global markets

Meanwhile, the impacts of the crisis are also on the ministers’ menu.

Speaking during the meeting, Qu Dongyu, director-general of the United Nations’ agriculture and food association (FAO), warned that even before the start of the Russian attack, around 193 million people worldwide were “acutely food insecure and in need of urgent assistance”.

“It is in this dramatic context that we now face the war in Ukraine,” he added.

According to the FAO, Qu stressed, one of the most crucial instruments to counter food price spikes in the face of the war is market transparency. He thus called on the ministers to “refrain from imposing export restrictions, which can exacerbate food price increases and undermine trust in global markets”.

Özdemir also stressed the importance of committing to open international markets.

“Functioning world markets are the basis for stable market prices.”

Meanwhile, Özdemir also warned once again that efforts to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises should not be slowed down in the face of the war. In this context, he said he wanted to discuss the transition towards sustainable global food systems with his G7 colleagues.

Commission slams Slovakia's proposed restriction of grain, cereal exports

Slovakia has tabled a proposal that would restrict agricultural commodities exports in light of the war in Ukraine, a move the European Commission has condemned, warning any bans of this nature to destabilise markets and lead to price increases.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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