A view from agricultural fields in Oblast on June 21, 2022. Farmers in Ukraine, one of the largest grain producers in the world, have been struggling to sell their product due to the war. (Photo: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
The global food security crisis triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would last for years even if the war ended tomorrow, Western officials have warned.
They said millions face being plunged into famine as the world experiences a food crisis on an “unprecedented scale” due to Vladimir Putin’s war.
It comes as foreign secretary Liz Truss accused Russia of “weaponising hunger” and using food security as a “callous tool of war” by blockading Ukraine’s grain.
Ukraine has been described as the “bread basket of Europe” and was one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil.
But the Russian invasion and Moscow’s mining of the access to the southern ports, including Odesa, has halted much of that flow and endangered world food supplies.
“Even at the best of times, if tomorrow the war was over, we are still looking at a two year crisis globally,” one official said, warning it would be wrong to believe the “global food food security crisis will be over in no time”.
“There is still going to be an impact on the world’s food supply from Ukraine for an extended period as a result of the war and as long as the war continues,” another added.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and British Secretary of State for Foreign Commonwealth and Development Affairs Liz Truss. (Photo: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
They said the war came on top of an already bad situation with conflict, climate and covid.
One expert added: “This is an unprecedented scale of global food insecurity - for its crisis in terms of speed, in terms of depth, in terms of unfortunately open-endedness because this will only get better once the war is over.”
They said there was a “vicious cycle” affecting the most vulnerable and poorest countries with food, energy, transport costs and spiraling debt.
“The figures are varying, they’re also changing very quickly, whether we’re looking at 1.6 billion people directly affected by food insecurity, including 860 million in crisis, in emergency or even famine.
“Of that, 49 million about to be struck by famine, life threatening situations.”
They warned the figures of those being plunged into famine were only going to increase.
Speaking at a press conference alongside Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara, Truss warned the crisis is “urgent” and must be solved in the next month to avoid “devastating consequences”.
She said the UK and Turkey were working “closely together” to get the “grain out of Ukraine”.
“[Putin] is using food security as a callous tool of war. He has blocked Ukrainian ports, and is stopping 20 million tonnes of grain being exported across the globe, holding the world to ransom,” she said.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.