May 19, 2022

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Russian billionaire Melnishenko says world is facing food crisis due to Ukraine war

Russian fertilizer and coal billionaire Andrei Melnishenko said on Monday that a global food crisis would erupt if the war in Ukraine was not stopped because of rising fertilizer prices.

Many wealthy Russian businessmen have publicly called for peace since President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion on February 24, including Michael Friedman, Pyotr Aven and Oleg Deripaska.

The United States and its European allies have portrayed Putin’s invasion as an imperialist-style land grab.

They have allowed Russian businesses, including EU sanctions on Melnishenko, to freeze state assets and cut off much of the Russian corporate sector from the world economy in an attempt to force Putin to change course.

Putin refuses to do that. He called the war a special military operation to liberate Ukraine from dangerous nationalists and Nazis.

“The events in Ukraine are truly tragic. We urgently need peace,” Melnisenko, 50, a Russian-born but Belarusian-Ukrainian mother, told Reuters in an emailed statement.

“One of the victims of this crisis is agriculture and food,” he said.

Melnichenko is the founder of EuroChem, one of Russia’s largest fertilizer producers, and in 2015 Zug, Switzerland, and SUEK, Russia’s largest coal producer.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has killed thousands, displaced more than 2 million people and raised fears of a major confrontation between Russia and the United States, the world’s two largest nuclear powers.

Food war?

Putin said last Thursday that global food prices would rise due to rising fertilizer prices if the West created problems for Russia’s fertilizer exports, which account for 13% of world production.

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Russia is a major producer of fertilizers containing potash, phosphate and nitrogen, the main nutrients for crops and soil. EuroChem, which produces nitrogen, phosphate and potash, claims to be one of the top five fertilizer companies in the world.

The war “led to an increase in the prices of fertilizers that are not already affordable to farmers,” Melnishenko said.

Food supply chains that had already been disrupted by Govt-19 are now in even more trouble.

“This will now lead to even more food inflation in Europe and food shortages in the poorest countries in the world,” he said.

Russia’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry earlier this month asked the country’s fertilizer producers to suspend exports.

International food and feed prices could rise by as much as 20% as a result of the conflict in Ukraine, which could trigger global malnutrition, the United Nations Food Program said on Friday.