Russia Attacks Ukrainian Ports, Destroying Grain Stores

Local officials have reported the destruction of grain storages by Russian drone attacks on Ukrainian ports. The ports are located on the River Danube just across the waterway from Romania, a NATO member. The Danube is a key export route that supplies agricultural and other goods to the Black Sea.  Russia’s recent refusal to renew a grain deal with Ukraine on July 17th, 2023, has exacerbated agricultural issues in the area. The deal allowed cargo ships to sail waterways to the Black Sea in an effort to continue exports to regions which rely on Ukrainian food – such as the Middle East and Africa. Now, the lack of export opportunity has resulted in Ukrainian agriculture driving down prices in regional markets. Additionally, the deal’s collapse means Russia is no longer barred from attacking Ukrainian ports.

The United States’ ambassador to the United Nations called the Russian refusal to renew the grain deal “an act of cruelty,” while the Romanian President Klaus Yohannis stated that the escalation poses “serious risks to the security in the Black Sea. It also affects further UA [Ukraine] grain transit & thus the global food security.” He also expressed concern that the attack was “very close” to Romania. 

The grain industry has suffered since the very beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war, and the lack of a grain deal renewal agreement threatens the global market. Often called the “breadbasket of the world” Ukraine exports a large amount of food to several nations, several of which are already experiencing shortages. Ukraine supplies goods like maize, wheat, barley, and sunflower oil to rich and poor nations. As a result, the U.S. and European nations have already seen a rise in grain prices. In the last year, The World Food Programme (which sends humanitarian aid to food-insecure regions) had received 80% of Ukraine’s grain production, a number that is sure to decrease without the grain deal. Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed that his country can replace Ukranian grain in the global market. He will likely reveal more at the Russia-Africa summit in Moscow on July 27th, 2023. 

Food insecurity is a common effect of conflict, but Russia’s actions must still be addressed. In 2018, the UN Security Council passed a resolution condemning attacks on farms, markets, and food distribution methods as a tactic of war. Russia’s attacks on Ukranian grain stores fall under this resolution and must be addressed by the international community. If allowed to continue, this path will lead to global financial and humanitarian consequences.