On September 1, the state-owned Russian news channel RT (Russia Today) reported that “Ukraine’s ‘hunger relief’” for Africa was a public relations stunt and that Ukraine was, in truth, selling its grain to “rich countries.”
Grain shipments from Ukraine began in mid-July after Ukraine, Turkey, Russia and the United Nations signed the Initiative on the Safe Transportation of Grain and Foodstuffs from Ukrainian ports.
Under the so-called Black Sea Grain Initiative, the parties agreed to provide a humanitarian corridor through the Black Sea for Ukrainian grain, related foodstuffs and fertilizer via Odessa, Chornomorsk and Pivdennyi.
On September 1, RT said on Twitter:
“Ukraine's 'hunger relief' for Africa goes to rich countries instead.”
In an accompanying video clip, the RT narrator says:
“But wait a minute. Why did all of East Africa only get one ship if they are so desperate for food? U.N. records show that Ukrainian grain went to other places as well: Ireland, Greece, Italy – countries that are not exactly hunger stricken. Well, Ukrainian officials wipe their hands clean of that since after all, the free market decides.”
This is disinformation.
According to the U.N. data, four ships carrying 154,640 tons of wheat left Ukraine for Africa as of August 27.
The first shipment of Ukrainian grain to support operations of the U.N.’s World Food Program (WFP) in the Horn of Africa left Pivdennyi aboard the U.N.-chartered Brave Commander on August 16. That shipment of 23,300 tons of wheat arrived in Djibouti on August 30.
Another ship, the Sea Eagle, is headed to Sudan with 65,340 tons of wheat, while the Karteria is bound for Yemen with 37,500 tons of grain and the Massa J is carrying 28,500 tons of wheat to Somalia.
The United States is the largest contributor to the WFP, having provided $5.7 billion since last year.
On August 30, the U.S. State Department welcomed the delivery of Ukrainian grain to Djibouti, saying the wheat would be distributed within the Horn of Africa.
“As part of a more than $68 million recent contribution by the United States to the World Food Program (WFP), this grain is among the first shipments of Ukrainian agricultural products exported from the Black Sea to reach some of the world’s most food insecure countries since the beginning of Russia’s unjustified, full-scale attack on Ukraine on February 24,” the State Department said.
According to the World Food Program, 345 million people in more than 80 countries are facing acute food insecurity, while 50 million people in 45 countries are at risk of being pushed into famine.
“It will take more than grain ships out of Ukraine to stop world hunger, but with Ukrainian grain back on global markets we have a chance to stop this global food crisis from spiraling even further,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley.
Reports indicate that Ukraine, one of world’s top exporters of grains, oils, and seeds, suffered more than $1 billion worth of losses to its agricultural sector since Russia launched a full-scale invasion.
According to the United Nations, 46 ships have left Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea carrying more than a million tons of grain and other foodstuff since the signing of the agreement.
To be sure, U.N. records show that these ships are headed for more than a dozen countries, including China, Italy, Spain, Germany and Iran.
But on August 22, the BBC reported that the top recipients of Ukrainian wheat shipments were Egypt, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Turkey and Yemen, respectively.
None are among the world’s richest countries.