The United States supports UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ efforts to return Ukrainian grain to the international market during the war, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said Monday.
“He spoke to us about his plans and discussions with Ukrainians and Russians on this issue,” Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told reporters, without giving further details.
After a visit to Moscow and Kyiv late last month, Guterres said he was determined to help bring Ukraine back to world markets, as well as food and fertilizer production in Russia and Belarus despite the war.
On Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Guterres had asked Russia to allow the shipment of some Ukrainian grain in exchange for steps to help facilitate Russian and Belarusian exports of potash fertilizers.
Guterres spokesman Stefan Dujarric declined to comment.
Russia’s mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, which she calls a “special military operation”, has led to rising world prices for grain, oil, fuel and fertilizers, and Guterres warned it would exacerbate the food crisis in poor countries.
Russia and Ukraine together account for almost a third of the world’s wheat supplies.
Ukraine is also a major exporter of corn, barley, sunflower and rapeseed oil, while Russia and Belarus, which supported Moscow in its war in Ukraine, account for more than 40% of world exports of nutritious potassium.
The conflict also disrupted shipping in the Black Sea, stopping exports from Ukraine and Russia. Now Ukraine was forced to export by train or its small ports on the Danube.
Grain exports in May fell by more than half compared to the same period a year ago, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.
Thomas Greenfield noted that there are no US sanctions against Russian agricultural products.
In December, Washington indeed blacklisted an export unit of the Belarusian state-owned potash producer to punish President Alexander Lukashenko for allegedly rigging the election and repressing the opposition.
UN chief David Beasley warned the UN Security Council in March that the World Food Program was buying 50% of its grain in Ukraine and that the war was threatening WFP’s ability to feed about 125 million people worldwide.
Guterres also said more than half of wheat imports from 36 countries rely on Russia and Ukraine, including some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, including Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Thomas Greenfield said the Biden administration is working with American farmers to learn “how we can provide more support to the international market for American grain.”
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is scheduled to hold a ministerial meeting at the United Nations on Wednesday with a “global call for food security” and chair a UN Security Council meeting on conflict and food security on Thursday.