Zelensky says ‘millions could starve’ due to Russia blocking Ukraine’s ports

Shipments of essential goods from Ukraine's Black Sea ports, such as wheat and seed oil, have been stopped since the onset of the Russia-Ukraine war.

 Zelensky delivers a video address to the TIME100 Gala 2022 crowd. (photo credit: SCREENSHOT VIA YOUTUBE)
Zelensky delivers a video address to the TIME100 Gala 2022 crowd.
(photo credit: SCREENSHOT VIA YOUTUBE)

Millions of people across the globe could starve to death as a result of the Russian blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a televised address at TIME100 Gala 2022 in New York on Wednesday.

Shipments of essential goods from Ukraine's Black Sea ports – such as wheat and seed oil, of which Ukraine is a major global supplier – have been stopped since the onset of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24th. Over 20 million tons of grain are stuck in silos across Ukraine and cannot be exported amid the war.

“We cannot export our wheat, corn, seed oil, and other goods, which used to play a stabilizing role in the global market,” as a result of Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea port, Zelensky stated.

Ukraine's grain crisis

Ukraine will only be able to export a maximum of 2 million tons of grains a month – just one-third of its usual 6 million tons of exports – if Russia refuses to lift its blockade of the country's Black Sea ports, Taras Vysotskyi, Ukraine's first deputy minister of Agrarian Policy and Food, said on Tuesday.

“Meaning, unfortunately, that a real food crisis may occur in dozens of countries… millions of people may starve if the blockade continues,” Zelensky warned.

Ukraine is the world's fourth-largest grain exporter – a crucial commodity that reached record-high prices in March and remains scarce in certain regions, as some nations have implemented export bans.

Russian Navy's Black Sea Fleet logistics support ship Vsevolod Bobrov sails in the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey, January 7, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/YORUK ISIK)Russian Navy's Black Sea Fleet logistics support ship Vsevolod Bobrov sails in the Bosphorus in Istanbul, Turkey, January 7, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/YORUK ISIK)

While Ukraine's grain, oilseed and vegetable oil exports rose 80% in May 2022 as compared to April, volumes are still significantly less than the exports in May 2021, Ukraine’s agriculture ministry said on Tuesday.

“The world is on the verge of a terrible food crisis… it is not just a price crisis,” declared Zelensky.