For Pope Francis, the departure of the first ships loaded with grain from the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odesa was a welcome development. It not only held out hope for relief to countries where many people are threatened by famine, he said, but it was also a sign that dialogue is a viable path to peace.
The shipments began recently, after the U.S. and Turkey brokered a deal to allow passage through a Russian blockade and a network of Ukrainian mines. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February has led to restrictions on grains and fertilizer coming out of the region and reaching many parts of the world, especially countries where there’s been a severe food crisis.
But so far, none of the ships carrying the precious cargo has reached any of those countries, such as Ethiopia or Somalia. Rather, they are ending up in places like England, Ireland, Italy, Turkey and even China. The fact is, according to a report in the New York Times, they are going “wherever buyers want them to: They are commercial ships, carrying grain for sale.”
A U.N. spokesman said the ships are fulfilling standing trade contracts, rather than being part of humanitarian missions to feed hungry mouths.
But that is a start, at least, said the spokesman, Stéphane Dujarric: it is helping to bring food prices down so that in the long run those countries facing famine-like conditions are better able to supply grain to their people. And the end of the blockade will eventually mean more shipments from Europe’s “breadbasket” to trouble spots.
“Other ships will come in, all with commercial contracts. Some of them will go to developing countries,” Dujarric said.
“The World Food Program has chartered one ship to take food aid from Ukraine directly to places where hunger threatens people, like Yemen and Somalia, officials said. All the other ships, so far, are commercial ships,” according to the Times’ report.