The Rt Hon the Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Minister of State
The Lord Alton of Liverpool
House of Lords
22 June 2022
Dear Lord Alton,
During Lord Dub’s oral question on 16 June you asked a question regarding UN figures for those at risk of food insecurity and famine in east Africa and the Horn of Africa, and the Russian narrative that blames Ukraine and the West for restricting the passage of food.
First, you asked how many people in East Africa are at risk of food insecurity. Drought in East Africa by September will impact an estimated 20 million people, according to the UN. In addition to drought, tens of millions of people across the region are also affected by conflict, flooding and political and macroeconomic crises. In Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan approximately 700,000 people are experiencing famine-like conditions.
I agree that we must strongly counter the false Kremlin narrative that the West and Ukraine are to blame for the rising food prices which are exacerbating global food insecurity. UK and western sanctions are not blocking grain exports. It is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including its blockade of ports, which is threatening global food supplies.
The international community must present a united front and collectively hold Russia to account so that the Russian government understands that its actions are unacceptable. We must also make every effort to mitigate the consequences of Putin’s illegal and unprovoked war until Russia changes course. G7 partners are united in this view.
We believe there are 20-25 mt of grain in storage in Ukraine that need to be exported to free up storage for the incoming harvest much of which will also need to be exported. The UK strongly supports UN efforts to unlock the export of Ukrainian grain and find practical ways to open up commercial shipping routes. We are also working with the EU and other countries to increase the volume of grain exported by rail, but the quickest and most impactful solution would be for Russia to allow access to Black Sea ports by ending its blockade.
Putin cannot be allowed to hold the world’s food supply to ransom in order to escape the sanctions that are undermining his war machine. But he can alleviate the global food crisis by immediately ending his war in Ukraine and enabling Ukraine to export its grain. The UK stands firmly with those countries and people worst affected. We will continue to fund humanitarian aid and economic support for those that need it most, protecting them from the fallout of Russian aggression.
Please let me know if I can be of any further assistance with this or any other matters in the future.
With best wishes,
THE RT HON THE LORD GOLDSMITH OF RICHMOND PARK
My Lords, in the context of Ukraine, can the noble Baroness say what role the Royal Navy is playing in deterring Russian aggression? Given that there are 25 million tonnes of grain blockaded in ports around the Black Sea, what advice is the Royal Navy giving, particularly to neutral countries and their navies, to get that food out to feed starving people in the Horn of Africa?
As the noble Lord is aware, maritime activity in the Black Sea is governed by the Montreux convention, which Turkey has deployed. For the moment, that restricts activity. The United Kingdom Government are consulting with allies and partners on how on earth we can try to get some of that grain shipped, either by sea or by land.