UPDATE - UN chief calls on Russia to return to Black Sea grain deal

UPDATE - UN chief calls on Russia to return to Black Sea grain deal

Russian, Ukraine are ‘both essential to global food security,’ says Antonio Guterres


By Beyza Binnur Donmez

GENEVA (AA) - UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called on Russia to return to the Black Sea grain deal after suspending its participation last week.

"For my part, I remain committed to facilitating the unimpeded access to global markets for food products and fertilizers from both Ukraine and the Russian Federation, and to deliver the food security that every person deserves," Guterres said at the opening session of the three-day UN Food Systems Summit +2 in Rome.

"I call on the Russian Federation to return to the implementation of the Black Sea Initiative, in line with my latest proposal," he said. "I urge the global community to stand united for effective solutions in this essential effort."

He underlined that Russia and Ukraine are “both essential to global food security.”

The two accounted for roughly 30% of global wheat and barley exports, a fifth of all maize, and more than half of all sunflower oil, he noted.

"With the termination of the Black Sea Initiative, the most vulnerable will pay the highest price," he stressed.

"The dire picture has grown bleaker with the Russian Federation’s termination of the Black Sea Initiative that enabled the safe export of more than 32 million metric tons of food on more than 1,000 vessels from Ukrainian ports," Guterres said.

He added that the grain deal, together with the memorandum of understanding with Russia to facilitate Russian food and fertilizer exports, have been "lifelines" for global food security and global food price stability.

“We are already seeing the negative effect on global wheat and corn prices which hurts everyone,” he said.

Last week, Russia pulled out of the Black Sea grain deal, saying the Russian part of the agreement was not being implemented.

The agreement, initially signed in July of last year in Istanbul by Türkiye, the UN, Russia, and Ukraine, was aimed at resuming grain exports from Ukrainian ports which had been halted as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war which began that February.

- Healthy, accessible food for all

On accelerating action to transform global agrifood systems, Guterres praised the progress that has been made since the UN Food Systems Summit in 2021.

"Over 100 countries have submitted voluntary progress reports on food systems transformation. Countries are taking decisive steps to reflect this priority in national and sub-national laws, policies and programming," Guterres said, adding that there is also progress on data to shape policies and partnerships.

He added, however, that salvaging the UN Sustainable Development Goals requires going much further, and time is running out.

Guterres called for massive investment in sustainable, equitable, healthy, and resilient food systems; for governments and businesses to collaborate to build systems that prioritize people over profit; for new ways to lower the cost and increase the availability of healthy food for all; and for food systems to reduce their carbon footprint to help end the "senseless" war on our planet and limit global warming to 1.5C.

"Let’s keep holding each other to account and learning from one another. Let’s transform food systems for the future, and ensure that every person, in every community and country, has access to the safe and nutritious food they need and deserve,” he urged.

UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General Qu Dongyu, for his part, said that agrifood systems hold "huge power and potential" in contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Qu emphasized the progress made in identifying the solutions that agrifood systems can provide for better production, nutrition, the environment, and a better life, such as sustainable farming practices, efficient water management, responsible packaging, reforestation, and reduced food waste, and emphasized that these depend on global agrifood systems becoming more efficient, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable.

"In the face of increasing uncertainties and multiple crises, we need to urgently undertake this transformation to fulfil the high expectations we have from our agrifood systems," he said.

"Unlocking the full potential of agrifood systems can only happen if we focus on these accelerators, to help minimize trade-offs and maximize synergies."

- 3-day summit

Rome will become the Food Security Capital of the World for three days, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said, a choice “that pays tribute to Italy’s traditional commitment to this crucial issue.”

"Food security has always been one of the strategic guidelines of our foreign policy and a priority area of Italian development cooperation. And it has become one of the major challenges of our time, in a completely interconnected world," Meloni said, inviting nations to invest in research and technology, finance at scale, and cooperate to transform food systems.

The summit will see a series of high-level events, dialogues, and side events related to transforming agrifood systems on topics such as food waste, climate change, healthy diets, partnerships, science and technology, indigenous people’s knowledge, and transportation.

The high-level event comes at a time when up to 785 million people are facing hunger globally, one-third of all food produced is lost or wasted, and more than 3 billion people cannot afford healthy diets, according to FAO.

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