Russia is using food as a weapon, partly by blocking Ukrainian ports, a US official said.
Ukraine exported more than $140 million of wheat to the US before the pandemic, with latest disruptions adding to price woes.
Secretary of state Antony Blinken made the comments at a UN security council meeting Thursday.It comes as experts warn that cyber attacks on Ukraine farming technology could worsen supply woes.
The US has accused Russia of enabling a global food crisis and holding supplies “hostage” by blocking Ukrainian ports.
“The food supply for millions of Ukrainians and millions more around the world has quite literally been held hostage by the Russian military,” US secretary of state Antony Blinken said at a UN security council meeting Thursday.
Blinken demanded that Russia end its blockade of Ukraine’s ports to ensure that vital food and fertilizer shipments can continue to flow.
Warning that food insecurity could rise, he cited figures from the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization. According to an April WFP report, up to 323 million could become food insecure in 2022 due to the conflict, up from a prewar baseline of 276 million people.
The Ukraine conflict has disrupted exports from two key players in the global commodities markets, curtailing production due to fighting and blocked ports. Russia is the world’s largest exporter of wheat,while Ukraine is a significant exporter of grains such as wheat and corn, accounting for 12% and 17% of global supply.
“The Russian government seems to think that using food as a weapon will help accomplish what its invasion has not – to break the spirit of the Ukrainian people,” Blinken added at the meeting.
His comments come after increased warnings by experts on cyber attacks on smart technology used in farming.
This is a growing concern given that it could exacerbate the impact of the Ukraine conflict on the global food supply chain, BBC News reported.
A major US agriculture firm, AGCO, faced a ransomeware attack last week that affected production. In April, cyber security authorities from the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand had warned of Russian state-Sponsored attacks that could impact global supply chains.
Earlier on Thursday, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the country was ready to allow the flow of food to avert possible famine in some countries, but expected “assistance from trading partners, including on international platforms.”
“Otherwise, there’s no logic: on the one hand, insane sanctions are being imposed against us, on the other hand, they are demanding food supplies,” Medvedev said in a social media post.
“We have every opportunity to ensure that other countries have food, and food crises do not happen. Just don’t interfere with our work,” he added.