“This is an especially repugnant form of war that Russia is leading,” Cem Oezdemir said at the start of a meeting in Stuttgart with colleagues from G7 countries, Ukraine, the European Union, the OECD and the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization.
Russia was “stealing, robbing, taking for itself grain from eastern Ukraine,” Oezdemir said, describing it as an “economic war”.
Before the invasion, Ukraine was seen as the world’s bread basket, exporting 4.5 million tonnes of agricultural produce per month through its ports – 12 percent of the planet’s wheat, 15 percent of its corn and half of its sunflower oil.
But with the ports of Odessa, Chornomorsk and others cut off from the world by Russian warships, the supply can only travel on congested land routes that are much less efficient.
“Ukraine is in a very difficult situation with regard to grain exports,” agriculture minister Mykola Solsky said ahead of the meeting.
The Russian occupation in the fertile eastern regions of the country would also have an impact on this year’s crop.
“We cannot get away from the fact that the harvest will be smaller than last year,” Solsky said.
Discussions had already begun on how to transport more grain out of Ukraine “over land, by train and along the Danube”, which flows from Germany to Ukraine, to “rescue” the produce stuck in the country, Oezdemir said.
Russia ‘responsible for global food supply crunch’
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday that Moscow bore a “responsibility” for disruptions in the global food supply due to its invasion of Ukraine.
“The chancellor and the Russian president also spoke about the global food situation which is particularly strained due to Russia’s war of aggression,” Scholz’s office said in a statement after a 75-minute call between the leaders.
“The chancellor reminded him that Russia bears a particular responsibility here.”
Scholz said the conversation with Putin Friday morning, following a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday, was focused on “the war in Ukraine and efforts to end it”.
He urged Putin “given the gravity of the military situation and the consequences of the war in Ukraine, especially in Mariupol” to bring about a “ceasefire as soon as possible to improve the humanitarian situation and make progress in the search for a diplomatic solution to the conflict”.
Scholz also “firmly rejected” Moscow’s accusation “that Nazism is widespread in Ukraine”.
The question of food security was already on the agenda for the G7 meeting of foreign ministers, which began Thursday in the northern German resort of Wangels.
“We as the strongest industrialised democracies have a special responsibility” to help poorer nations weather the food and energy squeezes caused by the war, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said.
The other members of the group are Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Britain and the United States.