Thursday, August 3, 2023

U.S. Department of State


MODERATOR: Good afternoon to everyone from the U.S. Department of State’s Africa Regional Media Hub. I would like to welcome our participants from across the continent and thank all of you for taking part in this discussion. Today, we are very pleased to be joined by the Deputy Administrator for Policy and Programming at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Isobel Coleman, and Assistant Administrator in the Bureau for Europe and Eurasia at USAID Erin Elizabeth McKee.  

Our speakers will discuss the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the impact its collapse has had on Africa, and the United States’ effort to strengthen food systems on the continent. Deputy Administrator Coleman and Assistant Administrator McKee are joining us from Washington, D.C. 

We will begin today’s call with opening remarks from Deputy Administrator Coleman and Assistant Administrator McKee, then we will turn to your questions. We will try to get to as many of them as we can during the time that we have.  

As a reminder, today’s briefing is on the record, and with that, I will turn it over to Deputy Administrator Coleman for opening remarks. 

DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR ISOBEL COLEMAN: Thank you. Thank you, Tiffany, and thank you to everyone for joining us this morning here in Washington to talk about the impacts on global food security since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, its recent decision to abandon the Black Sea Grain Initiative, and its clear intent to destroy Ukraine’s agricultural capacities.  

Russia’s purposeful destruction of Ukraine’s breadbasket is impacting not only Ukrainian farmers but also those around the world who rely on Ukraine’s exports. The Kremlin continues to spread lies about the Black Sea Grain Initiative while reaping record profits from exporting agricultural products. False narratives spread by the Kremlin conveniently forget that the U.S. and the EU, our sanctions do not target, in any way, trade, and agricultural and food products between third countries and Russia, and the Kremlin’s expanded military aggression against Ukraine, including the devastation it brought to Ukrainian farming sectors, has triggered the sanctions in the first place. 

Putin has claimed that Ukrainian exports from the Black Sea benefit the richest countries and not the poorest. This is simply a lie. In fact, nearly two-thirds of Ukraine’s wheat exports through the Black Sea Grain Initiative have gone to developing countries, and almost 20 percent have gone to the very least developed countries. Every spike in global grain prices, every wasted harvest increases the risk of another parent who cannot feed their child.

Just in the last few weeks since pulling out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the Government of Ukraine estimates that Putin’s missiles and drone attacks have destroyed 180,000 metric tons of Ukrainian grains sitting in storage. That is sufficient grain rations to feed almost 12 million people for a month. From August of 2022, when the first ship departed under the Black Sea Grain Initiative, through its termination last month on July 17th, Ukraine shipped nearly 33 million metric tons of desperately needed grain and oil seeds to global markets through the Black Sea Grain Initiative, and Putin’s refusal to continue this lifesaving deal is hurting the world, which depends on Ukrainian grain. Since the beginning of this war, he has used food as a weapon of war, and now he’s made clear that he’s not only intent on trying to cause mass devastation but also around the world – in Africa and the Middle East and elsewhere, where people depend on Ukrainian food to feed their families.

We have to remember that all of the food exported from Ukraine serves a critical role for the world’s poor, even if it doesn’t go directly to food-insecure areas, because it calms markets and mitigates against price spikes in key commodities.  

USAID is working to address the global food security crisis that has been exacerbated by Putin’s brutal and unprovoked war on Ukraine. Since February of last year, USAID has committed more than $14 billion in humanitarian and development assistance in more than 47 countries. And today at the UN Security Council, Secretary Blinken will announce $362 million in additional humanitarian assistance through USAID for countries facing severe food insecurity, which has been exacerbated by Russia’s war on Ukraine and Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative.  

Our stance has always been clear, we want as much food on the global market as possible, and we want it to be sold at the lowest price as possible. And while the world is – what the world absolutely needs is for Russia to end its illegal war against Ukraine, which would allow for a return to normal agricultural production and trade.  

I want to underscore that the United States is committed to responding to humanitarian needs and providing lifesaving aid in response to the historic food security crisis while also investing in resilient food systems. Food security was an important issue highlighted by President Biden at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit and is a focus of USAID’s work in Africa.  

So I’m going to pause there and hand over to Erin McKee, who leads our Bureau for Europe and Eurasia. So Erin, over to you.

ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR ERIN ELIZABETH MCKEE: Thank you, Deputy Administrator, and thank you, everybody, for joining us today. Just under two weeks ago, I was standing in the Port of Odesa accompanying USAID’s Administrator Samantha Power on her second trip into Ukraine. Before Russia’s full-scale invasion last February, Odesa felt like the very center of life. It was Ukraine’s gateway to the world, and every day there was a spirited bustle as Ukraine’s precious gold – that is, its grain – went from Odesa to feed the world.  

As Deputy Administrator Coleman mentioned, the Black Sea Grain Initiative allowed Ukraine to export nearly 33 million metric tons of grain and oil seeds, resulting in lifesaving impacts on countries experiencing acute food insecurity. 

In early July, Russia began blocking ships from entering this port, and on July 17th, Putin made the dangerous decision to end Russia’s participation in the Black Sea Grain Initiative, cutting off a vital lifeline for global food security.

On the night of July 18th, only hours after Administrator Power and I left the port, Russia launched intense missile barrages on Odesa and surrounding ports to degrade Ukraine’s critical Black Sea grain export infrastructure, and as we returned to Kyiv on the overnight train, our phones sounded alarms loudly every couple of hours – a constant reminder of the physical threat of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. But at the same time, Russia threatened commercial navigation with attack, stating that, henceforth, all ships bound for Ukrainian ports would be considered military targets.  

USAID is committed to support – to helping support Ukraine in light of this latest act of Russian aggression. We are working to accelerate livelihoods and alternative methods to get Ukraine’s grain out into the markets that need it. We are also continuously engaging our allies and partners to ensure that Ukraine’s – Ukrainian grain and food exports, which are so crucial to Ukraine’s economy and global food security – we need to get them to global markets.  

Over the course of the last year, working with Ukrainians and partner countries, we’ve seen these alternative routes – via the Danube, via road, via rail – go from exporting roughly three million metric tons of commodities each year to roughly three million metric tons exported each month. And despite the significant progress to open up and expand alternative export routes, it is essential that Ukrainian food is able to ship out of Black Sea ports. That outlet, that window to the world will never be compensated for the overland routes that we are working so hard on. These alternate routes will not be able to absorb the Black Sea Grain Initiative’s full capacity and may receive lower earnings as alternative export routes can actually be more costly.

On July 18th, on that same trip to Odesa, we announced an additional $250 million in new funding for our flagship Agricultural Resilience Initiative in Ukraine. This funding is in addition to the $100 million that USAID announced last July, of 2022, to initiate the Agricultural Resilience Initiative. And so with these new funds, we will build on the work that we had been doing in partnership with the Ukrainian government and our allies, with the transport and logistics industry, and with Ukrainian farmers. We’ll upgrade critical infrastructure for rail and road transportation, and we have a collective interest together to ensure that access to inputs, seeds, fertilizers, and other critical elements for Ukraine’s agricultural sector will be available so that Ukrainian farmers can stay in business.

We’re helping farmers in the agricultural sector deal with the urgent implications of Putin’s aggression, and this is an investment not just in the aggression but Ukraine’s long-term future, in the breadbasket that will help feed hungry communities around the world, including many in Africa, for generations to come. 

Putin’s unprovoked war of aggression has created a monumental challenge but a generational opportunity not just related to food security; it’s an historic inflection point and one that we want to tackle and make sure that Ukraine can continue to not only restore its economy and restore its sovereignty, but also continue to help feed the world. Thank you again for your time today. 

MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Deputy Administrator Coleman and Assistant Administrator McKee. We will now begin the question and answer portion of today’s call. We ask that you limit yourself to one question related to the topic of today’s briefing, which is food security in Africa. 

Our first question will go to Mr. Joe Bavier of Reuters, based here in South Africa. He asks, “While the Black Sea Grain Initiative appeared to succeed in bringing down global grain prices, Russian President Putin is correct when he points to the fact that only a small fraction of grain exported under the arrangement was shipped to developing countries, including in Africa. If renewed, would the U.S. be in favor of creating mechanisms that would ensure that more grain is sent to Africa? And if so, how might that be done?”

DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR COLEMAN: Mr. Bavier, thank you for your question, although I’m not sure where you are able to fact-check that Mr. Putin is correct. The UN’s own data indicates that, as I said in my opening comments, 65 percent of the grains from the Black Sea Grain Initiative have gone to developing countries and 20 percent have gone directly to the least developed countries. It’s just – it’s just a not true statement that developing countries haven’t benefited from the Black Sea Grain Initiative.  

And the other point that I also made in my opening comments which is very, very important to keep in mind is that countries that import grains, those grains are global commodities and they are priced globally. And taking off from the market one of the world’s largest breadbaskets – Ukraine – by doing that, Russia is increasing global food prices. We’ve seen already how when the Black Sea Grain Initiative deal came into place, global food prices came down over time, and since Russia has pulled out of the agreement, food prices have again been on the rise. And this affects every country around the world, but it affects most acutely large importing developing countries that have to spend much more of their precious foreign exchange resources to purchase food to feed their populations.  

So it is just patently untrue, Putin’s statement that this deal has not benefited developing countries, that developed – it benefits developing countries really the most because they are spending a larger share of their foreign exchange earnings on importing food than developed countries. So I’m sorry, but I would say that this is one of the false narratives that Putin has pushed repeatedly, and it is just a patent lie. 

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will go live to Pearl Matibe, writing for Premium Times in Nigeria.  Can you open the line, please? 

QUESTION: Thank you so much, Tiffany. Good morning to you and good morning to the briefers. I appreciate your time. I do have my own question, but I also want to just emphasize on the response that Deputy Administrator just made. If you would please be more precise. I understand the point you’re trying to make, but you’ve got to be more precise as opposed to – developing countries is still a broad term; you’ve got to be precise about the percentages that are exactly going to which African countries. My question to you is this: It seems that each African country that attended the Russia-Africa Summit is interpreting it as a success for their country, but what is the success for Africa? So again I’m asking you to be precise about percentages – give us data, which countries precisely?  

And I heard you say in your opening remarks about that shipments would be attacked and would be military targets. Could you elaborate on what you meant about ships being military targets? And I’d like to hear from both of you. Thank you very much.  

DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR COLEMAN: So, Pearl, we can follow up with the data that you’re asking for. The UN has published that data that has shown which countries are importing the most. But we do know that, as I said, 65 percent has gone to developing countries. You are correct – that is a broad spectrum. But 20 percent has gone to the least developed countries. And so you will see that there are a number of countries that are quite dependent on importing Ukrainian grain and have been for many years; they have relied on that. The World Food Program has, over the years prior to the war and even last year, has continued to source about 80 percent of its wheat from Ukraine, and this is going to some of the most vulnerable countries in the world: Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia. So – Ethiopia.  

I mean, around the world you’ve seen Ukrainian grain be priced very, very competitively, and shipping routes out of the Black Sea through the Suez Canal to the Horn of Africa and to South Asia has been a cost-effective way to move grains to those places. So please recognize that this grain has been supporting some of the very – most vulnerable people in the world, and then please don’t lose sight of the fact that Ukraine is one of the world’s breadbaskets, has been an important contributor to global food security. It is a global commodity; it is priced globally and every increase, every percentage increase in food prices affects the most vulnerable the most.

So yes, a portion of it is going directly to developing countries, but Ukrainian grain and wheat, it’s just an important component of the global food supply regardless. Thank you.

ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR MCKEE: And Pearl, to answer your question or to respond to your question about Russian attacks on vessels, beginning as of July 18th, my comment in my opening remarks was related to – or was repeating specifically – what the Kremlin announced, which was that, henceforth, all ships bound for Ukrainian ports would be considered military targets. In the last nine days, 26 port infrastructure facilities have been hit by the Russians. Five civilian vessels – civilian vessels – have been hit by the Russians. And 180,000 tons of precious grain crops have been destroyed.  

MODERATOR: Thank you both. If I could just ask the journalists – I do see a lot of commentary in the webinar chat. If you could please put that in the Q&A, that’s where the questions should be lodged. That’s where they’ll be read from. So thank you.

With that, I will go to one more question submitted in advance, from Mr. Thamo Kapisa from SABC Channel Africa in South Africa, who writes, “No priority is more pressing than addressing food insecurity to safeguard the calorie and nutrition needs of Africa’s one billion people and protect their human development. What long-term actions are being taken to cushion the blow of the current crisis on the poorest households and set African food systems on a more resilient and productive pathway?”

ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR MCKEE: Thank you. I’ll take that question, and thank you so much for that question because this really gets right at the heart of what USAID does. In the wake of the last food crisis that rocked global food security back in 2008, 2009, 2010, in response the U.S. government launched Feed the Future, which is a whole-of-U.S.-government approach to invest in food security and making countries more resilient to food crises. And today we invest in more than 40 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, really around the world, and we have 20 – sorry, 20 target countries that have very high levels of poverty and hunger, and also a strong potential for agriculture to drive economic growth and to transform food systems.

So the investments that we have been making have been in improving soil health and improving seeds quality; getting inputs to farmers, training farmers on modern agricultural techniques so that they can be more productive, that they can have higher yields while using less fertilizer; putting new technologies into their hands and training; and specifically focusing on women farmers, who make up an increasingly large portion of farmers and agricultural production but operate at lower productivity levels for a whole variety of reasons. So really focused on targeting raising women’s productivity. And we’ve seen some very significant productivity improvements, and it’s been able to crowd in more resources from the private sector. It has reached more than 30 million people, and we’ve seen reductions in poverty and increases in agricultural production.

So I would go so far as to say that some of the worst effects of this food crisis have been mitigated by the investments we’ve made over the past more than decade in food security, in long-term food security around the world. And of course we also are constantly responding to the nutritional needs of people who are facing crisis situations with humanitarian response. We’ve significantly increased our investment in Ready-to-Use Therapeutic food and announced a big commitment at UNGA last year to increase access to Ready-to-Use Therapeutic food, RUTF, to treat many, many more people who are facing nutritional crises. But that’s a short-term response, but the long-term response has really been investing in that long-term agricultural capability of farmers around the world and specifically in Africa. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thanks. I’d like to go to Peter Fabricius of Daily Maverick for the next question. Can you open the line, please?

QUESTION: Hi. Thanks very much, Tiffany, and thanks to the presenters. Very interesting. Yeah.  I just wanted to ask this question. I fully accept that U.S. and EU sanctions don’t cover – specifically don’t cover Russian exports of food and fertilizer directly, but I think that probably what Putin is implying when he said that he would only reinstate the BSGI when the restrictions on his exports, food and fertilizer exports are lifted was that indirectly they are impacted by sanctions such as financial, logistic, transport, et cetera, sanctions. And this – the seven African countries which have participated in the peace initiative issued a statement today – yesterday, actually – in which they basically seem to concur with Putin that those restrictions must – should be lifted in order to enable the grain initiative to be reinstated. So would you please comment on that? Thank you.

DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR COLEMAN: Thank you, Peter. I’ll say two things. The first is that those sanctions wouldn’t exist had Putin not invaded a neighboring country for really no reason at all.  So the sanctions that Russia is experiencing today are a result of an unprovoked invasion of a neighbor, breaking all international laws and rules and wreaking destruction on a neighboring country.

The second thing I’d say is that Putin is trying to have it both ways. He says that their agricultural and fertilizer exports have been hindered by these indirect – well, he even says direct, which is not true, but even by these indirect constraints, and yet Russia has had record exports of agricultural products in the last two years. Last year was a record and he’s on track for another record this year, and also has continued to export fertilizer to a usual amount, and it really doesn’t seem like these indirect problems are hindering them at all.

He’s also said that he's – that Russia is ready to step in and replace the 33 million metric tons that went out through the Black Sea Grain Initiative last year. How is Russia able to do that if they’re facing all of these constraints that he claims? It just – one of these statements has to be false, that they’re facing constraints and they can’t export versus we’re ready to step in. And what you’ve seen is Russia is the main beneficiary of the destruction of Ukraine’s breadbasket and the destruction of its export capabilities. It has picked up – the 25 percent decline of Ukrainian agricultural exports has literally been picked up by Russia, and it is benefiting from the higher prices and the market share that it is stealing from its neighbor as it blocks its ability to export.  

So I just – it doesn’t – Putin’s statements just don’t add up when you look at the actual facts. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you. We have a question submitted in advance from Mr. Akin Obajeye from CNBC Africa in Nigeria, who asks, “With Russia taking a stand not to renew the grain deal, and its efforts to take African nations as allies through BRICS, what role can African leaders play in convincing Russia to renew the deal? And is the United States planning to lend a voice directly to that effort, looking at the global impact it is having on food security?”

DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR COLEMAN: Well, thank you for that question. I think the fact that Secretary of State Blinken is at the UN today hosting a session on food security is testament to the United States lending its voice at the highest levels to this issue. We care enormously about global food security. We, at USAID, it’s – as I said, it’s core to what we do, but also government-wide it’s a priority. And we encourage African countries to understand the facts, understand how the invasion is hurting global food security, how it has increased global food prices, how Russia’s destruction of Ukraine’s agricultural sector will have ramifications, implications for years to come. We’ve seen a decline in the Ukrainian ability and capacities to export, and we’re going to have long-term higher prices as a result of that, and that affects the entire world, and as I’ve said earlier, it affects the most vulnerable countries the most.

And so understanding the facts, looking at actually what is happening and lending African voices to the call to stop this using – this use of food as a weapon of war, I think, is incredibly important, and of course the United States, we are lending our voice to that in a multitude of different ways. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you. There’s a follow-up question in our Q&A from Cara Anna from Associated Press, Nairobi, as she asks, “What is the U.S. doing to ensure that much more than 20 percent of the grain from Ukraine does directly – goes directly to least developed countries, and what is the goal percentage?”

DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR COLEMAN: Thank you. I don’t know that we have a goal percentage.  I mean, I think that, as I’ve said again and again, because commodity – food commodities are globally sourced and globally priced, the reality is that when you take so many millions of metric tons off the market – I mean, last year through the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Ukraine exported 33 million metric tons, and it’s going to be extraordinarily hard to replace that as Russia says that it can replace it, but the world is very dependent on all of the different agricultural breadbaskets being able to operate at full capacity. And all you need is a drought or intense flooding or any of these natural disasters that we’ve seen in years past that have affected markets such as Canada or Australia or India, China – whatever – some of the big producers around the world. And you will see a global food security – a global food price spike that no country in the world can ameliorate.

That is what happened in 2008, and we are absolutely committed to not allowing that to happen again. And this weaponization of food is – it’s immoral what Putin is doing, and it’s a lie to say that the food is not going to the neediest countries. Twenty percent is a huge amount.  Think if you took 20 percent of oil off the market. Think what would happen. When you have one percent or two percent of oil come off the market, prices spike.

And we shouldn’t get overly focused on what percent is going to which countries. We know that Ukraine’s food has long gone to countries in South Asia and in Africa. The World Food Program, for example, while it’s a small amount, it’s an important amount of their humanitarian assistance. Eighty percent of their wheat has been sourced from Ukraine. And when you look at Ukraine’s big traditional markets in the Horn of Africa, in the Middle East, countries like Yemen and Lebanon, these are countries that have imported food from the Black Sea, and by shutting that down they suffer and the whole world suffers. So let’s not get too hung up on percentages, but recognize that so much of Ukraine’s grains have gone to feed developing countries around the world.  

But we will – as I said, we can provide the data that the UN itself has provided on a breakdown of where the food is going.

MODERATOR: Thank you. We have a question from Luke Anami from The EastAfrican, part of Nation Media Group, in Nairobi. He asks a pretty straightforward question: “Russia has terminated the Black Sea initiative, the Black Sea Grain Initiative. What is your plan B in the distribution of grain to global markets?”

DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR COLEMAN: Well, I will let Erin jump in here, but just to say that from day one of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, we have been actively working on a plan B, recognizing how critical Ukraine as a breadbasket is to the entire world, and really trying to ensure that there are alternate routes for exporting Ukraine’s grains. And we’ve done a lot over land through Poland and then through southern Europe on the Danube, through those ports, and we continue to invest in making those more productive and able to export more grains. As Erin mentioned in her opening remarks, the Danube ports have gone from three million a month to – sorry, three million a year to three million a month, and that has helped, but right now it is not a replacement for the Black Sea, which is the most efficient and effective way to export bulk grains from Ukraine. So it impacts pricing. 

But Erin, why don’t I let you talk a bit more specifically about how some of the investments that we’re making in the Danube ports and then the alternate routes are allowing for continued exports from Ukraine.  

ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR MCKEE: Sure, thank you, and thank you for the question. It’s not really a plan B, it’s all of the above. And before the Black Sea Grain Initiative was struck last summer, we were focused on supporting Ukrainian farmers to get their grain out, and our EU colleagues and allies stepped up and, as Deputy Coleman described, the solidarity lanes came into play. We have increased throughput by rail, by road, and via the Danube significantly. Of course, we had to work closely on both sides of the borders as well as the downstream market to ensure that the throughput, if you will, was maximized and made most efficient.

Going forward with the announcement of our second phase of the Agricultural Resilience Initiative, we are going to be expanding that throughput on those routes. But they will not be a replacement for the Black Sea ports, first and foremost Odesa, and so it’s not a solution; it’s really an interim alternative.  

And I will add on the economics that those routes are far more costly to the farmers themselves. And so when we were in Odesa speaking with a group of farmers – small farmers – to ask them what the impact and effect both of the war and the suspension of the initiative meant for them, it was very clear that it’s going to translate into reduced income, longer wait times, and so we’re focused on interim – expanding interim storage and a variety of other sort of response mechanisms. But it’s not a long-term solution.

The good news is that the farmers also said that this is their livelihood and they are committed not only to ensure that they can plant the next harvest and sort of live through these very trying economic times, because they are committed not just to their own country but to helping contribute to food security around the world.  

MODERATOR: Thank you. We have time for one last question from Victoria Amunga from VOA in Kenya. It’s very straightforward in the chat: “How much grain have you been able to transport out of Ukraine and to which countries in Africa?”

DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR COLEMAN: Erin, do you have the specifics on that? 

ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR MCKEE: I don’t. I think we’re going to have to follow up on that with the data, in addition to the other question that was asked.  

DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR COLEMAN: Yeah. I mean, the – we know that through the Black Sea Grain Initiative alone, it was 33 million metric tons while it lasted, and there was more grain exported through the Danube routes that we talked about and overland. Specifically how much of all of that went to which countries we’re going to have to follow up with.

MODERATOR: All right. Thank you.  

DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR COLEMAN: Can I just – I’m sorry, Tiffany. There is a question in the chat about – that I – sorry, I didn’t get to read through them all. But Claire asked a question about Putin’s commitment to the six countries. I would just say that sending grains to six countries, I’d like to see it happen. If it really does come to fruition, it’s not a replacement. This is small amounts of grain for those specific countries, and it’s just not a replacement for the world of taking one of the world’s critical breadbaskets off the market, which is literally what Putin is doing. And it’s just – the idea that it’s a – it somehow compensates for it – yes, it might be of benefit to those six specific countries, but it certainly is no replacement for the rest of the world. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you. That’s unfortunately all the time that we have today. I would like to ask Deputy Administrator Coleman and Assistant Administrator McKee if they have any final words for our journalists.  

DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR COLEMAN: Just to – again, it’s hard to read everything, but in the chat I see there is a question about Ethiopia, just to say that we are very focused on restarting our food distributions in Ethiopia as soon as possible and we are working closely with the Government of Ethiopia to ensure that as soon as possible that we are able to do that. Thank you.  

MODERATOR: Thanks. I’m glad you took that question. I didn’t – I wanted to squeeze it in; I wasn’t sure of your time, so I appreciate you responding. Do either of you have closing remarks before we – before we finish? 

DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR COLEMAN: I would just, again, thank you all for joining us here. There is a fair amount of fake news on this topic around the world of what’s actually happening, and there is, as I have noted, just a blatant discrepancy in what Putin says on the one hand that somehow Russia has been hurt by its inability to export its grains because of sanctions.  

Agriculture, fertilizer, they are not sanctioned. If there are secondary effects, they don’t seem to be making it too difficult for Russia, which has had record agricultural exports. This is really about one country destroying a breadbasket in another, and the long-term global repercussions of that have yet to be felt. But we are looking at many, many years of effort to get Ukraine’s capacity back to where it was, and the longer that its farmers are unable to export their goods and the more destruction that Putin’s government rains on the Black Sea infrastructure, agricultural infrastructure of Ukraine, the harder it is going to be and the worse the impact will be on the entire world. And it will be felt most by developing countries and the least developed countries, which are most dependent on importing food.

So I just want you to all keep that in mind, and also keep in mind that global grains are globally sourced and globally priced, and this is not something that will be easy to just turn back on because of the long-term destruction that is being inflicted on Ukrainian agriculture and Ukrainian farmers. Thank you.


ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR MCKEE: No, Isobel captured it very well. I just want to thank everybody again for the time you spent to pose questions and listen to us, and we are dedicated to do all that we can to help Ukraine continue to contribute what is possible by, as I said, the solidarity lanes and other interim solutions, because it’s vital for all the reasons that Deputy Coleman cited. And we will do so for as long as it takes and we appreciate your help in understanding both the economics and the challenges and, as journalists and a critical pillar of democracy, helping make sure that the facts get out to your readers, listeners, and constituents. And we stand ready to help to provide the numbers that you asked for and are deeply appreciative of the time. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thank you. And that concludes today’s briefing. I would like to thank USAID’s Deputy Administrator for Policy and Programming Isobel Coleman and Assistant Administrator in the Bureau for Europe and Eurasia Erin Elizabeth McKee for speaking to us today, and all of our journalists for participating.

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