It is precisely what is happening in Ukraine today. Ukraine cannot export about 90 million tons of agricultural products as Russia has blocked Ukrainian ports -- its Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told local media. The country produces a significant share of world food – about 27 per cent of its sunflower seeds, Five per cent of its barley, Three per cent of its wheat and rapeseed, and Two per cent of its corn. One of the biggest concerns is the harvest which puts Ukraine farmers in a situation where they may not be able to recover. Many farming families have been forced to flee. It is not so in the case of farmers in Russia.  

In Ukraine, there are fields full of food without anyone to harvest it. And if the farm has been mined, it cannot be accessed. So, while farmers are doing all they can to produce, will they be able to get their produce out? That's a big question. It is one thing to grow and harvest food, but it's another thing to connect with global markets, especially if the infrastructure is under attack. So, the whole agricultural sector in Ukraine is at risk. Farmers here are finding alternative routes to export their food, but this is not at the same scale as before. In conflict zones, if you come under attack at a critical stage in the agricultural calendar, the ramifications can last up to nine months. So, if you miss the planting and harvest seasons, the consequences will be felt months later.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concerns about widespread hunger as the Ukraine war threatens food security in different parts of the world. It has also sent global prices for grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertiliser soaring, which will worsen the food crisis in Africa. In addition, shipping in the Black Sea, a significant route for grains and other commodities, blocks exports from Ukraine and Russia. The Russian Navy, which controls the Black Sea, has refused to allow grain shipping unless economic sanctions inflicted on them by the West are lifted? Russia, the largest exporter of wheat in the world, can export grain, but it also faces problems due to sanctions and its requirements.

In this scenario, the World Food Program (WFP) has reached 1.3 million people in Ukraine and hopes to scale up to six million in the next three months, along with Three Lac people in neighbouring countries. Families receive ready-to-eat food rations, bread and cash for when they are on the move; by July, they hope to reach 2.8 million people with cash assistance. Russia and Ukraine account for 30 per cent of global wheat exports and 20 percent of global maize exports. Besides pushing up already high prices, the disruptions are threatening food security for millions of families worldwide. 

Drought affected countries across the Horn of Africa are likely to be the hardest hit by the conflict, WFP. The cost of a food basket has already risen, particularly in Ethiopia (66 per cent) and Somalia (36 per cent), which depend heavily on wheat from Black Sea basin countries, and the disruption in imports further threatens food security. Shipping costs on some routes have doubled since January. In Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen, food prices have skyrocketed. As a result, the number of food-insecure people is soaring. Needs were already outstripping available resources before the war, and now the cost of buying and transporting food turns much more expensive.

It is a most unfortunate situation, and while there's food on the fields, the world faces the spectre of starvation. And the US continues to fight Russia firing from the shoulders of Ukraine. So the only logical answer would be for the world to ensure unhindered market access for food grains from Russia and Ukraine to control prices and prevent famine in Africa. 

The world should do all it takes to avoid such a catastrophe looming on the horizon. ˜

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