U.S. announces three-year agriculture partnership with Ukraine to address food crisis

The Agriculture Secretary announced Thursday at the United Nations a three-year agricultural partnership between the United States and Ukraine to address global food insecurity, which has been exacerbated by the invasion of Ukraine by the Russia.

The partnership, in the form of a memorandum of understanding, was signed virtually earlier this week by the secretary, Tom Vilsack, and Ukraine’s agriculture minister. Vilsack said the agreement was aimed at providing technical assistance to Ukraine, which before the war was the world’s fourth largest exporter of grains and seeds, and helping the country rebuild its agricultural industry after the end of the war.

Vilsack said the United States would take several other steps to deal with the crisis, including providing incentives for producers to increase production and, therefore, increase the amount of grain available for food aid.

The war in Ukraine has sent global food and energy prices skyrocketing and threatens to create grain supply shortages in countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa that are heavily dependent on wheat and cereals imported from Ukraine. The United Nations has warned that a global food crisis, already underway due to climate change and the disruption of supply chains caused by the pandemic, will put hundreds of thousands of people at risk of starvation.

A global effort is underway to free some 25 million tons of Ukrainian grain that is trapped by the Russian blockade of the country. The UN is also negotiating a deal in which Russia would allow Ukrainian grain to be transported from Black Sea ports in exchange for Russian fertilizer exports to the world market without the threat of sanctions.

“Food shouldn’t be a weapon,” Vilsack said. “Getting the most needed grain out of ports is essential.”

Turkey, which has played a mediating role in the food dispute, on Wednesday offered to host four-party talks with Ukraine, Russia and the UN. But a breakthrough would require Ukrainian ports to be cleared of mines and ships to be escorted through safe corridors to avoid mines in the Black Sea. A UN spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said Thursday there was no update on the negotiations.

Vilsack said while negotiations for shipping continued, a parallel track was needed to move and store grain overland through Romania and Poland by rail. This would reduce the risk of grain theft and free up storage space for Ukrainian farmers who will soon have to harvest winter crops, he said.

“These negotiations are extremely important,” Vilsack said, but added, “We remain skeptical about the Russians and whether or not they will come to this to get the ultimate yes.”

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Post expires at 9:35am on Monday June 27th, 2022