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French foreign minister warns of global famine

France’s Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the EU must get to grips with the prospect that the war in Ukraine could prompt an “extremely serious” global food crisis.

Russia and Ukraine are both gigantic exporters of grain, and half of Africa’s wheat imports come from the two countries, while global food commodity prices have already surged as a result of the conflict. Ukraine’s food exports have all but ceased and its capacity to plant and harvest food this year is threatened by the war.

“We must take charge of this new situation quickly,” Le Drian said when arriving at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels Monday. But he gave few details about what the EU should do, bar working closely with international agencies, partners and NGOs.

“It’s not sanctions that are making the global food security malfunction, it’s the war,” he said, “because there aren’t any sanctions on food. It’s the war that’s proving problematic, and that will tomorrow bring with it the risk of famine.

“We see the consequences of war, the impossibility of harvesting, of sowing, of exporting,” he added, talking about Ukraine.

EU agriculture ministers are meeting Monday to align their responses to the crisis, while the European Commission is hosting a major conference on humanitarianism this week that will also touch on food security.

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