The World Food Program says food supply chains in Ukraine are “falling apart”.

FILE PHOTO: Wheat is seen in a field in Nikolaev
FILE PHOTO: Wheat is seen in a field near the southern Ukrainian city of Nikolaev July 8, 2013. REUTERS/Vincent Mundy//File Photo

March 18, 2022

By Emma Farge

GENEVA (Reuters) – A World Food Program (WFP) official said on Friday that Ukraine’s food supply chains are collapsing, with key infrastructure such as bridges and trains destroyed by bombs and many grocery stores and warehouses empty.

Jakob Kern, WFP emergency coordinator for the Ukraine crisis, expressed concern about the situation in “encircled towns” like Mariupol, saying that food and water supplies were running out and convoys were unable to enter.

“The country’s food supply chain is breaking apart. Goods movements have slowed due to the uncertainty and reluctance of drivers,” Kern said at a media briefing in Geneva via video link from Kraków, Poland.

“In Ukraine, our task is to replace the broken commercial food supply chains,” he added, describing it as a “mammoth task”.

The UN agency has previously fired food, wheat flour and food rations outside the cities. It has so far shipped 12,000 tons of groceries within the country, all of which come from Ukraine.

While Ukraine is a major producer of wheat and corn, WFP will import food there as part of an expanded emergency operation aimed at helping more than 3 million people.

It is currently preparing 8,000 tons of food for import from neighboring countries, Kern said.

WFP buys almost half of its global wheat supplies from Ukraine, and Kern said the crisis there since the Russian invasion on February 24 has pushed up world food prices sharply.

“With global food prices at an all-time high, WFP is also concerned about the impact of the Ukraine crisis on global food security, particularly on the hungry,” he said, warning of “collateral hunger” in other places like Yemen and Lebanon which are severe rely on imports from Ukraine.

The agency will pay an extra $71 million a month for groceries this year due to both inflation and the Ukraine crisis, he said, adding that such an amount would cover the food needs of 4 million people.

“We’re changing suppliers now, but that’s affecting prices,” he said. “The further away you buy it, the more expensive it gets.”

(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Barbara Lewis and Frank Jack Daniel) The World Food Program says food supply chains in Ukraine are “falling apart”.

Bobby Allyn

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