U.S. Struggles to Address Ukraine Global Food Crisis

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U.S. and European policymakers are trying to find ways to deal with a brewing global food crisis stemming from Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Policymakers here and in Europe are trying to find ways to move Ukrainian grain out of the country, whose Black Sea ports are now blocked and some of its farmland, warehouses, roads, and equipment destroyed.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is in Warsaw, Poland, meeting with counterparts to address food insecurity and price spikes, especially in the Middle East and Africa, heavily dependent on Ukraine exports.

“The ports have been blocked or mined. So, they’re not available today. Overland routes, need to be established in order to get product to other ports, outside of the black sea ports that are blocked. To do that requires obviously a lot of trucks and a lot of railcars, and there’s a question about whether or not there are sufficient numbers of those available, but the real challenge is that the rail system in Ukraine is not compatible with the rail systems in some of the other neighboring countries.”

Vilsack earlier told lawmakers here, the U.S. can help provide humanitarian food aid, but transportation costs are very high.

“It’s amazing to me that it costs more than the value of the product we’re transporting, to get that food to Ethiopia and some of the North African countries. So, I think there’s an opportunity for us to look at ways that, that could potentially be addressed.”

Iowa U.S. Senator Joni Ernst told reporters recently, none of the hundred million Congress has ok’d in food aid had moved as of last week, since U.S. law says half of ships used must be U.S.-flagged.

“Well, currently, there are only four of those types of cargo ships that are U.S.-flagged and meet the specifications, according to law. There are over 12,000 of these cargo vessels that are worldwide.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Ukraine’s foreign minister the US is committed to finding a solution to Ukraine’s food export problem. Blinken said the UN Security Council will also hold an emergency session soon, on global food insecurity.

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