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Russia invades Ukraine, Mariupol besieged

US President Joe Biden said leaders discussed the possibilities of food shortages triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Biden said food shortages will be “real,” and he called Ukraine and Russia the “breadbasket” for Europe.

Supplies from the two countries together account for almost 30% of global wheat trade.

“The price of the sanctions is not just imposed upon Russia. It’s imposed upon an awful lot of countries as well, including European countries and our country as well,” Biden said in remarks after an emergency NATO meeting in Brussels.

“We had a long discussion in the G7 with … both the United States, which has a significant — the third largest producer of wheat in the world — as well as Canada, which is also a major, major producer. And we both talked about how we could increase and disseminate more rapidly food … In addition to that, we talked about urging all the European countries and everyone else to end trade restrictions on sending, limitations on sending food abroad. So we are in the process of working out with our European friends what it would be, what it would take to help alleviate the concerns relative to food shortages,” he said.

Biden also mentioned a “significant” US investment model for humanitarian assistance, which would include food.

Separately, French President Emmanuel Macron laid out the details of a proposed EU-led food security initiative designed to alleviate the risk of food shortages caused by the war.

“This situation will create a food crisis, extremely serious humanitarian situations in several countries and are sure to have massive political consequences in several countries,” Macron said at a news conference in Brussels on Thursday.

According to a document circulated by the Elysée, Russia is the top exporter of wheat worldwide (33 million tons in 2021) with Ukraine not far behind (fourth largest exporter, with 20 million tons in 2021).

The document estimates 27 mostly African and Middle Eastern countries source over 50% of their wheat from Russia or Ukraine.

The three-pronged initiative spelled out in the document would rely on measures, such as making crisis stockpiles of grain available to “avoid any shortages and keep prices down,” raising production thresholds, and stepping up investments in sustainable agriculture in the most-affected countries.

CNN’s Simon Bouvier contributed reporting to this post.

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