Sunday, August 14, 2022

Food or Profit?

 There is a shortage of bread in Lebanon and when it is available, it is very expensive. For weeks, people have been having to queue for hours at bakeries. Despite state subsidies, a package of six flatbreads officially costs 13,000 Lebanese pounds (ca. €8.50 or $8.80). On the black market, it often goes for at least twice that.

There had been a glimmer of hope when it was reported that the Razoni, the first ship to set off from Ukraine after Moscow and Kyiv struck their deal last month to establish a grain corridor, was on its way to Lebanon. However, before arriving at its destination in Tripoli, the second-largest city in the country, the ship was turned away with 26,000 tons of grain. The official explanation is that the buyer no longer wanted the cargo because it was five months too late. Furthermore, the president of the Food Import Association of Lebanon, Hani Bushali, told German news agency DPA that the country needed wheat, not corn. It appears that the corn was originally intended as animal feed.

In many countries, it is wheat that is the number one staple food. Despite this several of the subsequent ships that left Ukraine were loaded with corn or sunflower meal.

The Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) set up by the UN to facilitate the implementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative did not respond to an inquiry by DW as to why this was the case. In its FAQs about the initiative, the UN states: "The shipping companies decide on the movement of their vessels based on commercial activity and procedures. The Joint Coordination Centre in Istanbul authorizes the movement of vessels in and out of the Black Sea based on the requests it receives from the Ukrainian port authorities." Only some of the shipments are intended for the UN World Food Program to alleviate hunger around the world, but the JCC has no say in where the rest of the grain should be delivered. Turkey, Britain, Ireland and South Korea are just some of the possible destinations.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a briefing this week that these were "commercial transactions" and it was only normal that the ships "go where the contract stipulates that they go." 

Ukraine: No smooth sailing for grain via the Black Sea | Europe | News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 13.08.2022

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