Temporary silos will be built along the border with Ukraine, including in Poland, in an effort to export more grain from the country and avoid a global food crisis, Joe Biden has announced.
The US president told a trade union conference in Philadelphia on Tuesday that he was working with European governments on the plan “to help lower food prices”.
An estimated 20 million tons of grain has been trapped in Ukraine – the world’s fifth largest wheat exporter – since the war started in late February, leading to famine in some countries.
When Russia invaded, it blocked Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. Russian and Ukrainian troops have also filled the surrounding waters with mines. Attempts to restart shipping have failed and about 84 foreign ships are stuck in Ukrainian ports, many with grain loads on board.
A massive diplomatic effort to save Ukraine’s grain has failed because it has always been transported by sea rather than less reliable road or rail networks.
In his speech, Biden said the grain “cannot make it through the Black Sea because it will be blown out of the water,” referring to floating mines.
Instead, he said, Washington was developing a plan to get grain by rail, but noted that Ukraine’s rail lines were different from those in Europe — because they were slightly wider apart — so the grain would have to be transferred. to different trains at the border. “So we’re going to build silos, temporary silos, on the borders of Ukraine, including in Poland,” Biden said.
Grain could be transferred from Ukrainian rail cars to the new silos and then to European freight cars to “get it out to the ocean and get it across the world,” he said, adding that the plan took time.
“This is just one of the potentially useful steps to ensure food security. But we also need a green corridor for our ports,” Andriy Yermak, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, said in an online post, referring to the blockade.
Ukraine’s agriculture ministry said on Tuesday that European countries are considering building temporary silos to “preserve harvests and secure future grain supplies”.
The slowdown in grain exports has contributed to what analysts have called a “perfect storm” for the global food supply as farmers face rising oil and fertilizer costs and the lingering effect of coronavirus labor restrictions.
The head of the African Union warned last month that the blockade of Ukrainian ports by Moscow poses a “catastrophic scenario” of food shortages and price hikes.
Reuters contributed to this report