‘World war for bread’ underway – Italy
If the conflict in Ukraine doesn’t end quickly, Rome warns that there could be a flurry of coups and terrorist attacks in Africa.
Luigi di Maio, Italian Foreign minister, said that the Ukrainian military conflict must be resolved quickly to avoid famines in Africa. He also suggested “the proliferation of terrorist organizations and coups d’etat” were on the horizon.
“Already, the World War for Bread has begun and must be stopped,” he said.
Di Maio urged Putin to “Come to the Table” and reach a peace agreement as soon as possible, including a specific agreement on wheat.
“It is important to remember that 30 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain are being held hostage by Russian warships. We are working to make sure Russia does not block the export of Ukrainian grain from Ukrainian ports. Otherwise, we run risk of new conflicts in Africa.”
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi requested that Russian President Vladimir Putin allow grain exports both from Russia and Ukraine. Putin accepted this request, provided the West lifted sanctions. Foreign ships will now be able to access the south of Ukraine once more, with Mariupol being under Russian control.
However, Putin has denied that Ukraine’s wheat is blocked by Russian warships. He said that Kiev has extensively mined its harbours and poses a serious threat to vessels trying to enter Ukrainian ports.
Italy said last week it would help de-mine the ports in order to create sea corridors to transport wheat, in addition to the existing humanitarian sea corridor opened southwest of Ukraine’s territorial waters by Moscow last month.
Meanwhile, Kiev has been shipping its grain out via the Romanian port of Constanta and over land to Europe – a much less efficient route as far less of the crop can be transported at a time. European countries can pay higher prices for this crop. This means that less grain is likely to reach northern Africa. The leaders of Africa have appealed to Europe to remove sanctions from Russia, which makes it difficult to import food using the SWIFT system.
READ MORE African Union calls for lifting Russian sanctions
Di Maio has called for Putin to sign a ceasefire agreement allowing Italy to evacuate civilians in eastern Ukraine, though it’s not clear if this is in addition to existing humanitarian corridors set up by Russia and the Donetsk People’s Republic to evacuate civilians from Mariupol.
He added that Italy would meet on Tuesday with other Mediterranean countries, as well as Germany, to “At a historic moment when households and industry cannot afford to increase energy costs, the goal is to unblock the wheat exports from Ukraine. [cannot afford]The increase in materials costs,” and the rest of the world cannot afford an increase in the cost of wheat and bread.
Ukraine accounts for 15% of the world’s corn and close to 10% of its global wheat exports. The country also makes half of all the sunflower oil available on the international market. This makes Ukraine a key link in global food chains.