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Washington's weaponizing food hurts world: China Daily editorial

chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2022-08-23 20:09

Although the United States and its allies have not put Russian fertilizer and grains on their sanctions list, Russia's exports of these products are still affected by the "chilling effect" of the US-led sanctions on Russia, as most international traders are afraid to buy them from Russia for fear of being subject to sanctions themselves.

Although the US and its allies have lifted financial restrictions on Russian exports of grains and fertilizers, the issue of freight restrictions remains unresolved. Russian ships are still barred from going to key ports in the Mediterranean, while foreign ships have been barred from going to Russian ports to pick up food and other goods. The West has in effect blocked Russia's exports of fertilizers and grains to the world.

Yet as United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned at a news conference on Saturday after his visit to the joint coordination center in Istanbul that is overseeing exports of Ukrainian grain, Russian fertilizers and agricultural products must be able to reach world markets "unimpeded" or a global food crisis could strike as early as next year. His call that "it is important that all governments and the private sector cooperate to bring them to market" demands a positive response and strong support.

No matter what high-sounding reasons the US and its allies use to try and justify the sanctions, the broad and damaging consequences, especially for the poorest countries and the poorest people, are evident to all.

Three of the four largest companies, which control more than 75 percent of the global grain trade, are US companies. The soaring food prices have markedly increased the net profits of these companies and their affiliated enterprises. It is a bitter irony that the more money they are making, the more people there are suffering from hunger.

That's a vivid example of how the US benefits from the crises it creates, and explains why the US has never ceased sowing seeds of unrest around the world.

Because of the overlapping of the COVID-19 pandemic, extreme weather conditions and the Ukraine crisis, the UN's World Food Programme warns that humanity could face the largest food crisis since World War II, with 1.7 billion people facing hunger. Compared with the other two factors, creating a "green channel" for Russian and Ukrainian grain and fertilizer exports would clearly be the least costly and easiest to achieve, and the results would be immediate. This is also something many agricultural producers in Africa, Southeast Asia and South America and hungry people around the world are looking forward to.

Since it is the US that is weaponizing food, and profiting from the practice, whether the world can avoid a food crisis next year largely depends on how cooperative the US will be with the efforts of the UN and other members of the international community.

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