Ending Ukraine's Grain Blockade is Welcome but Will Not Solve the Global Food Catastrophe: Statement by Mercy Corps CEO Tjada D'Oyen McKenna

In response to news today that Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, and the UN reached a deal to end the blockade that has prevented some 20 million tons of grain from leaving Ukraine for export via Black Sea ports, Mercy Corps CEO Tjada D’Oyen McKenna says:

“If respected and enacted in good faith, today’s deal to protect Ukrainian grain exports through the Black Sea will help ease grain shortages, but let’s be clear - this will not end or significantly alter the trajectory of the worsening global food crisis.”

“Unblocking Ukraine’s ports will not reverse the damage war has wreaked on crops, agricultural land and agricultural transit routes in the country; it will not significantly change the price or availability of fuel, fertilizer, and other staple goods that are now beyond the reach of many, particularly in lower-income countries; and it will certainly not help the majority of the 50 million people around the world inching closer to famine stave off starvation.”

“Today’s global food catastrophe goes far beyond the 20 million tons of grain that have been stuck in Ukraine. Spiking fuel prices are driving up the cost of staple goods across nearly every country where we work. In parts of Somalia, where hundreds of thousands of people are on the brink of famine, we’ve seen the price of cooking oil, beans, rice, sugar and flour nearly double since the start of the Ukraine conflict, and fertilizer prices have increased by 75%. In Yemen, families are forced to choose who receives a single food ration when they used to receive four. In Northwest Syria, food prices have increased upwards of 67%. From Colombia to Guatemala, farmers we work with can’t get their crops to market because fuel has become too expensive to travel. None of this will be solved by the end of the blockade.”

“The uncertain future of Ukrainian agriculture and grain exports as war grinds on will certainly impact global grain markets and particularly countries in Africa and the Middle East that are heavily dependent on imports from Ukraine. But we must recognize that our global food systems were already failing and record numbers of people were edging toward poverty and hunger due to the economic pummeling of the COVID-19 crisis and the impacts of climate change. A record fourth failed season of rains in the Horn of Africa has decimated food production, robbed people of their economic assets, and pushed 18.4 million people into acute food insecurity.”

“Emergency cash, food, and nutrition assistance are vital in places like Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan where children are dying daily of hunger. Beyond immediate assistance, urgent action must be taken to strengthen agricultural food systems: scale climate-resilient agricultural production and boost support for local agriculture by providing smallholder farmers the information, financial, and regulatory support they need to help their communities and countries reduce reliance on imports.”