Grain deal with Russia necessary to feed the world, asserts UN WFP leader Cindy McCain amidst Ukraine conflict

The World Food Program (WFP) chief has warned that Russia’s withdrawal from the Ukraine grain deal could make it difficult to feed the world’s population. Cindy McCain, speaking on the BBC’s Sunday program ‘Sundays with Laura Kuensberg’, stated that the deal, which expires on 18 May, needs to be renewed. The export deal has allowed Ukraine to ship millions of tons of food despite ongoing conflict, and was brokered by the United Nations.

Ukraine is a major global exporter of sunflowers, maize, wheat and barley, and more than half of the wheat grain procured by WFP last year came from there. Meanwhile, the United Nations agreed to help Moscow boost its agricultural shipments. However, after the February 2022 invasion, Russian warships cut off access to Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea. Despite this, they agreed to help tackle the global food crisis.

Talks between high-ranking officials from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations to extend the deal appear to have ended without Russia’s agreement. McCain said that WFP is sourcing grain from other sources for distribution around the world, but the pandemic has made it difficult to feed many people. She also stated that it would be difficult for Ukrainian farmers to bring in a harvest this year and that there are mines on much of the land that used to grow crops.

On whether he thought Russia would sign an extension to the Black Sea Grains Agreement, McCain said: “No, I’m not sure. I’m not sure. That’s it,’ he said. It’s… now I hear it’s 50/50.” The situation has led to concerns about the difficulties of feeding people around the world. Demands on Ukraine’s agricultural exports that it wants to be met before agreeing to the extension include reopening a UN-mandated pipeline carrying Russian ammonia to Ukrainian Black Sea ports. Talks on the extension will continue online.

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