Antonio Guterres warned about the high probability of a global food crisis and the threat of famine.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned about the likelihood that mass hunger and malnutrition in many countries of the world could drag on for several years if steps are not already taken to end the global food crisis, calling on Russia to release Ukrainian grain.

Speaking at a major United Nations summit in New York, Guterres said that the war in Ukraine has exacerbated global food instability, which has already been negatively affected by warming and the coronavirus pandemic.

Guterres said that in just two years, the number of people suffering from acute food shortages has doubled – from 135 million before the outbreak of the pandemic to 276 million today. According to the UN Secretary General, more than 500 thousand people are living in conditions of hunger on the planet, which is more than 500% more than in 2016.

“Now the war in Ukraine is intensifying and accelerating all these factors: climate change, COVID-19 and inequality,” Guterres said, speaking at a meeting on the growing food crisis, which was held in New York under the chairmanship of Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“This could lead to tens of millions of people being on the verge of food insecurity, followed by malnutrition, mass starvation and food shortages; a crisis that could last for years,” Guterres added.

Before the invasion of Russia, Ukraine was considered the main breadbasket of the world. 4.5 million tons of agricultural products were exported monthly through Ukrainian ports. 12% of the world’s wheat, 15% of corn and 50% of sunflower oil were grown in Ukraine.

However, due to the fact that the ports in Odessa, Chernomorsk and other Ukrainian cities were blocked by Russian warships, deliveries can only be carried out via overloaded land routes, which is much less effective.

Guterres called on Russia to allow Ukraine to unload grain exports.

“Let’s be blunt: an effective solution to the food crisis is impossible without the reintegration of Ukrainian food production,” he said. – Russia should allow a safe one… export of grain stored in Ukrainian ports. We can explore alternative transportation routes — even if we know that this alone is not enough to solve the problem.”

The UN chief also said that Russian producers of food and fertilizers “should have full and unrestricted access to world markets.”

Russia is the world’s largest supplier of agricultural fertilizers and natural gas. The war and international economic sanctions against Moscow interrupted the supply of fertilizers, wheat and other goods from both countries, which led to an increase in food and fuel prices, especially in the developing world.

Fertilizers are not subject to Western sanctions, but their sale was disrupted due to measures taken against the Russian financial system, diplomats say.