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The desolation in the silos of Ukraine, the cradle of the new crisis of hunger due to war

From the secretary general of the impotent UN to the president of the United States. From the UK Prime Minister to Pope Francis. Everyone is talking about the worst global food crisis in the last 70 years.

Because of the war launched by Russia in Ukraine, which is about to complete four months, at least 22 million tons of grain (wheat, corn, barley and others) remain blocked in Ukrainian ports.

The problem is multicausal, but one of its points of origin is in the north of Ukraine, in the Chernihiv and kyiv regions. Huge silos for storing grain, built as a rule in the 1960-1970s, are chained there in each village.

In Chernihiv, Serhii, the director of one of the largest agricultural companies in the region, explains to Clarion the situation, while walking through the destroyed buildings of his factory.

The company has a grain silo with a capacity to store 110 thousand tons. But now it has about 65 thousand tons. In three months of war the owner could not export a single ton.

blocking

The rail link for cargo is still down and highways are blocked by a dozen destroyed bridges.

Before the war, all the grain it produced was exported through ports in southern Ukraine. The recipients were the countries of North Africa and China. Now, with the Russian army blocking the Black Sea, exporting this grain is impossible.

Sergei Yarosh, director of the Mlybor flour factory, looks at the destruction of the site after a Russian attack, in the Chernihiv region. Photo: REUTERS

But the situation may be more serious.

There are three keys to keep in mind. The first is that Ukrainian railway capacities to transport grain are equivalent to 1 million tons per month. So to export 22 million blocked tons, it would be necessary to wait about a year and a half. But the Russian Federation launches multiple attacks on the railway network in Ukraine every day.

A month ago, the team at Clarion he was on the Zatoka bridge, which links Odessa with the rest of the region. That infrastructure now no longer exists: the bridge was bombed 3 or 4 times during May.

This means that taking the grain from the Ukraine to the south, to Romania or Bulgaria is impossible. The borders with Poland, Hungary and Slovakia in the west are completely bottlenecked and overloaded.

Destroyed bridges and blocked roads, a Russian strategy in the war in Ukraine.  Photo: AP

Destroyed bridges and blocked roads, a Russian strategy in the war in Ukraine. Photo: AP

negotiations on hold

The second point is that for now the negotiations on unlocking the Ukrainian ports are at an impasse. Russia asks for the possibility of checking all the ships that are going to leave or enter the ports, at the same time guaranteeing only with its words that it will not take advantage of the corridors to carry out a naval landing.

It is obvious that for Ukraine these conditions are unacceptable. In this situation foreign countries could be intermediaries, but neither Russia nor Turkey accept it. Turkey does not allow ships from the UK, US or France to enter the Black Sea.

Romania and Bulgaria, like other states that share the Black Sea, have a rather passive position and hardly participate in the negotiations.

The third point is told by Serhii, the owner of the company from Chernihiv. while showing the roof of the silo damaged by Russian missiles in early March, shares his fears.

Concern

The new harvest begins in Ukraine at the beginning of July, which lasts until December with the busiest period in August-September. This means that warehouses that are now full or nearly full will soon have to accept more grain. It will be the critical moment: without being able to store the new harvest, it is possible to lose the part of the grain that cannot leave the fields. Serhii says that if the silos are still full, next year they will not plant or they will plant less than normal because they cannot store as much.

This leads to a deficit and rising world prices. In addition, the grain that is stored without exporting must be treated all the time so that it is good. This also influences the rise in prices.

If this problem is not resolved this year and the next, the same situation will arise, even without blocking the ports.

And what does Ukraine have to do with world hunger, does it mean so much? According to the UNAA (or the FAO, the part of the UN that fights hunger), Ukraine provides food for approximately 400 million peoplewhich is roughly equivalent to the population of South America.

Ukrainian farmers in a field near Soledar, in the east of the country, days ago.  Photo: AP

Ukrainian farmers in a field near Soledar, in the east of the country, days ago. Photo: AP

Food shortage

The process has already started. 3 weeks ago the UN said that the world has food reserves for approximately 10 weeks. This week in Chad they approved the state of alert due to food shortages.

In Nigeria, food inflation reached 20% this month. In the horn of Africa they have the strongest drought in the last 40 years.

According to the UN Global Food Crisis Report, the year 2021 was the worst year in the history of observations that have been going on for 6 years. So 2022 is unfortunately going to break this record. And even if tomorrow the Russians say “we are ready to give you the corridor to export your grain”, in the short term this does not change the situation much.

The war in Ukraine is now three months old and this is critical time that was lost in global food chains. The hardest thing will be surviving this summer. And because of the Russian aggression in the Ukraine, many will not be able to do so due to lack of food because the silos of Serhii in Chernihiv in northern Ukraine and of many other farmers throughout the country will be overloaded with the most desirable grain without being able to transport it.

From Chernihiv, special for Clarín

CB

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