Can the first humanitarian grain carrier in the Black Sea go to Africa to alleviate the food crisis?

Since the restoration of the Black Sea “Grain Corridor”, the first humanitarian grain carrier has set off for Africa.

On August 14th, the Ukrainian side announced that a ship chartered by the United Nations had loaded 23,000 tons of wheat and was ready to leave for Africa. This is the first such ship within the framework of the Black Sea food export agreement brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in late July.

Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said that the grain carrier named “Brave Commander” is ready to leave for Africa. For security reasons, he did not specify the specific departure and arrival dates. However, Marxer Malcenco, governor of Odessa, revealed that the ship left the port of Denny, Pi Fu, in Uzny on 14th. It plans to sail to Djibouti, a country in northeast Africa, where food will be transshipped to Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is one of the five countries identified by the United Nations as facing the threat of hunger. At present, the country is in the worst drought in 40 years, and thousands of people have died of hunger or disease this year. The weather forecast shows that Ethiopia will usher in the fifth consecutive rainy season without rain in the coming weeks.

According to a new assessment by the Famine Early Warning System Network, millions of families in Ethiopia will find it difficult to cope with this shock. The country’s demand for food aid has reached a record level, and as many as 15 million people need food aid.

Although this aid is only “nine Niu Yi cents” for the huge demand, the World Food Program still regards it as an “important step” to transport Ukrainian food to the most affected countries.

Denise Brown, the United Nations coordinator in Ukraine, described the incident as “very positive”. He said that Ethiopia urgently needs these foods, and the United Nations will make efforts to ensure that the food will continue to be delivered to African countries facing famine and sharp rise in food prices. He also revealed that Ukraine is considering using railways to increase grain transportation, and the Ukrainian Ministry of Agriculture also plans to open up a new truck route to Poland.

According to a UN e-mail obtained by politics, at present, more than 60 countries in the world are facing enormous pressure on food imports. Even with the mediation of the United Nations, Ukraine can export food, but it has not reached many countries in need. According to the data of the World Food Program, 345 million people in 82 countries are facing serious food insecurity, and 50 million people in 45 countries are on the verge of famine. Without humanitarian support, they may be pushed to the brink of collapse.

UN Secretary-General Guterres said that the Black Sea food export agreement will bring relief to developing countries on the verge of bankruptcy and the most vulnerable groups on the verge of famine.

According to a report by insurance broker Marsh, at least 50 countries depend on Russia and Ukraine for 30% or more of their food supply, including many developing countries. For example, Turkey imported 78% wheat from Russia and Ukraine in 2020, and Brazil is the main market of Russian fertilizer.

According to the Ukrainian side, since the first commercial grain carrier set off from the Black Sea on August 1, 16 such ships have transported grain to the world market. As of August 10, the data shows that about 370,000 tons of agricultural products have been transported. But they are all used as animal feed or biofuel, and are mainly shipped to Turkey or western European countries. These agricultural products are mainly corn, and a small amount of soybeans, sunflower oil and sunflower seed meal. At present, wheat has not been delivered as a staple food for human beings.

According to the United Nations food price index, global food prices fell by 8.6% in July, especially the prices of wheat and vegetable oil. However, compared with last year, food prices are still obviously high. After the fall, the food price in July is still about 44% higher than that in 2020.

Some analysts believe that the Black Sea Grain Corridor can partially alleviate the food shortage problem, but it is difficult to achieve in the short term. The agreement involves three ports in Pi Fu, Odessa, Cherno, Moske and Danny, with a total transportation capacity of about 3 million tons per month. Some analysts predict that this export level may not be fully realized until October. Nick Robson, global head of credit business of insurance brokerage firm Marsh, predicts that it may take 12-18 months to see significant improvement.

Transporting a large amount of grain requires a large number of ships, but some shipowners are cautious about entering the war zone, especially under the threat of mines and high insurance costs. Elena Faige Neroba, business development manager of Maxigrain, a Ukrainian grain brokerage company, said that the main challenge at present comes from mines, and shipowners are holding a wait-and-see attitude and want to see how other ships can make decisions again.

Although military diving teams from Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey are clearing mines in the relevant waters, it may take several months to clear them. At present, the Black Sea Agreement is only valid for 120 days.

Although some insurance companies are willing to provide insurance, the overall insurance cost for ships entering Ukrainian ports is still high. In addition, recruiting crew members is also a challenge. When the conflict between Russia and Ukraine just broke out, about 2,000 sailors from all over the world were stranded in Ukrainian ports, and 450 people have not left yet.

Risk analysts said that the rising global food prices and the shortage of food and fertilizer caused by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine may trigger further economic turmoil and test western companies with overseas operations in the coming months. Nick Robson of Marsh, an insurance economic company, said that countries that rely on imported food are relatively risky, and the impact of extensive austerity policies and epidemics on public finances may damage the ability of some countries to issue food subsidies.

Srdjan Todorovic, head of terrorism and hostile environment solutions for Allianz Global Company, said that food insecurity is definitely a global problem and one of the main topics that the company should pay attention to.

“Hunger Stone” is exposed, glaciers are halved, and drought will continue to affect crop yields in Europe.

Last week, France, Britain and other European countries that experienced extreme drought ushered in heavy rain. However, the latest monthly report issued by the European Union warns that rainfall cannot make up for the water shortage caused by drought, and drought in some areas may last until the end of the year.

With the worst drought in Europe in 500 years, the “hunger stones” of many rivers in Central Europe have been exposed; New research shows that the glaciers in Switzerland have shrunk by more than half, and the melting speed of glaciers has accelerated.

The report of the European Union warns that drought will lead to the reduction of crops such as corn and soybeans, and will also hinder the transportation of coal and oil in many countries. Researchers have warned that coal-fired power plants in Germany may have a coal shortage this fall.

“Hunger Stone” and Historical Fragments Appear
Since the beginning of this year, the Po River, the longest river in Italy, and the Rhine River, the largest river in Western Europe, have suffered from historic droughts. With the continuous decline of water level, in recent weeks, “Hunger Stone” has been found in many rivers such as Elbe River, Rhine River and Danube River.

Hunger stone is a brand that was put in the riverbed when the predecessors encountered drought. Stone is usually engraved with the words year and warning. These marker stones are used to remind future generations that if the water level drops and the hunger stones are exposed, it means that there will be famine in the local area because of drought.

This summer, the Elbe River, the Rhine River, the Danube River and the Moser River all found hunger stones, and the Elbe River found the most hunger stones. The river is one of the main shipping routes in Central Europe, which flows through the Czech Republic and Germany and joins the North Sea near Hamburg, Germany.

The warning words “If you see me, please cry” are engraved on a hungry stone found in the Elbe River section of Qin Jie town in northern Czech Republic. The earliest year mark visible on the stone is 1616, and many years such as 1707 and 1746 are also marked. The last time this hungry stone surfaced was when Europe suffered from extreme drought in 2018.

In addition to warning the hunger stone, the drop in water level has also brought many historical sites back to the surface.

Stonehenge, composed of 150 stones, surfaced after the water level of a reservoir plummeted in caceres, central Spain. This Stonehenge can be traced back to around 5000 BC and was submerged in 1963. Since then, Stonehenge has only appeared four times.

In Italy, the drop in the water level of the Po River led to the reappearance of a 450-kilogram World War II bomb, and the handling of the bomb forced more than 3,000 local residents to evacuate. In Serbia, as the water level of the Danube drops, more than 20 Nazi German warships during World War II surfaced. In Spain, a village that has been flooded for 30 years has come to light again.

In Switzerland, due to the massive melting of glaciers, climbers found two unidentified human remains and the wreckage of a plane that crashed in 1968.

A study released by the Swiss Federal Institute of Forest, Snow and Landscape on Monday warned that Swiss glaciers are accelerating to melt in recent years.

From 1931 to 2016, half of the 1,400 glaciers in Switzerland melted. In the short six years from 2016 to now, 12% of the remaining glaciers have melted, and the number of glaciers in Switzerland accounts for half of the glaciers in the European Alps.

The effects of drought persist.
The latest August report released by the Global Drought Watch of the European Union predicts that the weather in most parts of the European Union will return to normal levels from August to October after experiencing extreme drought and high temperature. But the subsequent rainfall can’t make up for the serious water shortage caused by the drought for half a year.

According to the EU’s drought index, in early August, 47% of Europe was in the “warning” level and 17% was in the “alert” level, up from 11% in July. Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Britain and other countries have all increased the risk of drought.

In the past three months, the reduction of precipitation has had the most serious impact on Portugal, Spain, southern France, central Italy, Switzerland and southern Germany.

The report predicts that this year’s drought will have an impact on the output of major crops in the EU. Among them, compared with the past five years, corn production is expected to drop by 16% on average, soybeans by 15% and sunflowers by 12%.

In terms of energy, although the recent rainfall has alleviated the drought in the Po River in Italy, the local water resources are still in a state of emergency, and it is difficult to balance supply and demand; The storage capacity of power generation water in reservoirs in northern Italy continues to decline, less than half of that in previous years.

In the Netherlands, the low water level of the Rhine seriously affects commercial shipping, and the reduction of shipping is impacting coal and oil transportation; In Portugal, the water level of all reservoirs has dropped, and 25% reservoirs are in a state of serious water shortage, and the stored hydropower energy has been less than half of the average level in the past five years.

The report warns that although the temperature in most parts of the EU will be close to normal from August to October, it can no longer make up for the serious water shortage caused by the continuous drought. During this period, western Spain, eastern Portugal and the coast of Croatia will still suffer from drought. Until November, the Mediterranean region may be drier and warmer than in previous years.

Last week, the German Meteorological Bureau also reminded that although the country ushered in rainfall, the rainfall could not restore the water level of rivers such as the Rhine River to normal navigation level.

30% of Germany’s oil and coal transportation depends on inland navigation, and 80% of inland navigation needs to pass through the Rhine River. Due to the continuous decline of the water level in the Rhine River, cargo ships have reduced their cargo capacity to 30% to 40% to prevent grounding.

German authorities predict that the water level of the Rhine River in the Cobb section of Frankfurt will briefly rise to the peak level of 154 cm on Tuesday, local time, and then drop again. Cobb section is the hub channel of Rhine material transportation, and the drop of water level means that it is difficult for ships such as coal carriers to sail with full load. Previously, the water level in the Cobb section once fell below 40 cm.

Last week, the oil giant Shell announced that due to the low water level of the Rhine River and the difficulty in shipping, Shell Energy and the Rhineland Chemical Park had reduced production.

In addition to the oil giants’ production cuts, Guido Baldi, a researcher at the German Institute for Economic Research, also warned that if the Rhine still does not return to normal, there will be a coal shortage in Germany’s coal-fired power plants by September.

Due to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and western sanctions, Russia has reduced its natural gas supply to the EU, and the EU is also accelerating the replenishment of natural gas stocks to spend this winter. In order to reduce the use of natural gas, Germany and other countries began to restart coal-fired power generation. Once coal-fired power generation is blocked, Germany’s energy crisis will intensify.

Baldi predicted that the shortage of coal and the current supply chain problems will reduce Germany’s GDP by 0.5% in the third quarter; If the coal transportation problem is not solved, Germany may encounter power shortage in September.