Economist: Loss of Ukraine’s Exports Could Be Felt Worldwide for Years – 60 Minutes

The port of Odesa is closed, cutting off one of the world’s biggest food exporters. Ukraine, the size of Texas, is number four in corn and wheat, number one in sunflower oil. David Beasley, executive director of the UN World Food Programme, said that half of the wheat that WFP needs worldwide is held in Ukraine.

“Ukraine is the breadbasket of the world. They grow enough food to feed 400 million people. Well, that’s over,” Beasley told 60 Minutes this week. “You’re already seeing rising fuel prices, rising food prices, rising transport costs. It’s already wreaking havoc on the poorest of the poor across the world. But it’s not just going to affect the poorest of the poor. It will affect everyone.”

The loss of this Ukrainian breadbasket could be felt around the world for years, according to Arif Husein, chief economist at WFP.

“This is the time for farmers to be planting corn,” Husein said. “Now. This is their time. And they’re not. Why? Because the farmers are soldiers. Why? Because there’s not enough diesel. Look at the wheat. Now, in the soil is what winter wheat is. It needs pesticides. It needs fertilizers. Same problems. No manpower, no fuel, no machinery. Our estimates are that between 30-50% will actually be harvested. Would that have an impact on the world? Hell yes it will an impact on the world.”

“We have to open these ports. You, you have to open them and we have to protect them so food can get in and out of this country to the rest of the world,” Beasley told correspondent Scott Pelley. “It’s a humanitarian necessity, the world demands it, we have to open these ports, we have to open them.”

“You seem to be suggesting that NATO warships would have to enter the Black Sea to secure port transport,” Pelley said.

“I’m a humanitarian guy, but it’s not complicated. World leaders are going to have to come together somehow and figure out a way to protect these waterways. The ports need to be opened,” Beasley said. “So whatever world leaders need to do, I’ll leave it to them. But I know one thing, we’re running out of time.”

Time is money. David Beasley said his budget is short at $10 billion worldwide because of the rising cost of fuel, food, transportation, all multiplied by COVID. Today, in 81 countries, WFP plans to feed more than 145 million people this year.

“Before Ukraine, I was already cutting rations for millions of people around the world,” Beasley said. “We’ve already reduced rations for over 8 million people to 50%. Imagine saying to your child, ‘I can only give you half of what you need to have a healthy diet.’

“How do you prioritize?” asked Peley.

“So we’re taking food from the hungry kids and giving it to the hungry kids,” Beasley said. “That’s what we’re doing now.”

For all the millions he’s making, even with half the rations, Beasley is most concerned about those who are likely starving in Russian-occupied Ukraine. He is personally negotiating access with Russia.

“I wrote. I called. I know the United Nations is doing everything they can to give us access because we are impartial. We are neutral,” Beasley told Pelley. “And all we’re asking is, ‘Give us access to reach the innocent victims of this war.'”

“But it’s in the Russians’ interest to starve these people,” Pelley said.

“Well,” replied Beasley, “Of course it does, doesn’t it?”

And food is now a weapon in war. A restaurant that cooked for the humanitarian aid organization, World Central Kitchen, was hit by an airstrike, injuring four people.

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