World risks ‘worst famine since WWII’ – German minister
‘Millions’ could die because of the pandemic and the ongoing military action in Ukraine, Germany’s development minister believes
The world is about to face an acute food crisis due to skyrocketing food prices, German Economic Cooperation and Development Minister Svenja Schulze told Bild newspaper on Saturday, warning about a looming famine not seen since World War II. The minister has named Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s ongoing military operation in Ukraine as its causes.
“The situation is highly dramatic,” the minister told the German tabloid in a late Saturday interview, adding that, according to the UN World Food Program, “more than 300 million people” are already suffering from acute hunger and the UN has to “constantly revise” this data upwards.
Food prices around the world have grown by a third and have reached “record levels,” Schulze has warned, adding that the “bitter message is that we are facing the worst famine since World War II,” which could see “millions” die.
In its May 6 statement, the World Food Program has warned that “44 million people around the world are marching towards starvation” because Ukrainian grain cannot reach them, and called for the Black Sea ports to be opened so that this grain could be delivered to the needy.
Minister Schulze was quick to blame Moscow for the development by accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of “waging a war through hunger.” She claimed that Russia had “stolen grain from Ukraine” and is now taking advantage of nations depending on Russian and Ukrainian agricultural products by supposedly offering food only to those, who are “unequivocally pro-Russian.”
The minister has also claimed that the fact that 40 nations that are “home to half of the world’s population” did not condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine was supposedly a result of their “vulnerability to food blackmail.” She didn’t offer any specific evidence to support this statement, though.
At the same time, she did admit that some nations’ focus on green energy has contributed to the food shortage as well. Germany in particular should stop using food as fuel, she has suggested. Up to 4% of the so-called biofuel in Germany is made from food and animal feed, she said, adding that “it needs to be reduced to zero, and not just in Germany but potentially internationally.”
Germany “pours 2.7 billion liters of fuel [made] from vegetable oils into car tanks every year,” she pointed out, adding that this alone amounts to “almost a half of Ukraine’s sunflower oil production.”
The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has prompted fears of global grain shortages as wheat prices soared to multiple-year highs in March. Both Russia and Ukraine are major wheat suppliers, accounting for some 30% of global exports.
In mid-April, however, German Agriculture Minister Cem Ozdemir insisted that supplying Kiev with “more effective” weaponry was precisely what would have helped the world to avoid the supposedly looming “global famine.” Ozdemir, a member of the strongly pro-US/NATO Alliance 90/The Greens party, also accused Moscow of “starvation strategy” at that time.
His position appears to be quite different from at least two groups of German public figures, politicians and celebrities, who have called on Chancellor Olaf Scholz to stop arms supplies to Ukraine and to focus on a speedy diplomatic solution instead.
Continued arms deliveries would only prolong the suffering of Ukrainians as well as risk potentially devastating consequences, ranging from a possible global war to a “catastrophic” impact on global health and climate change, the co-authors of two open letters have warned. Berlin has not reacted to any of the letters so far.
Russia attacked its neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.