PHILADELPHIA (AFP, REUTERS) - US President Joe Biden on Tuesday (June 14) disclosed a Western plan to build silos on the borders of Ukraine to facilitate export of grain caught in a Russian blockade of Black Sea ports that has triggered a global food supply crisis.
Biden blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for high food prices in the United States and warned that the plan for new infrastructure to help get more Ukrainian wheat to world markets was "taking time."
"I'm working closely with our European partners to get 20 million tons of grain locked in Ukraine out onto the market to help bring down food prices," Biden said in a speech to a trade union convention in Philadelphia.
"What Putin's war has done is not only try to wipe up the culture of Ukrainians, decimate people, commit innumerable war crimes, but he's also, he's also prevented the grain, thousands of tons of grain, that are locked up," Biden said.
"They can't get out to the Black Sea because they get blown out of the water."
Biden said alternative land exports were complicated by the fact that Ukrainian railways use a different gauge than the networks in neighbouring countries.
To help ease the bottleneck, "we're going to build silos, temporary silos, in the borders of Ukraine, including in Poland, so we can transfer it from those cars into those silos, into cars in Europe, and get it out to the ocean and get it across the world," Biden said.
“This is just one of the possibly useful steps in ensuring food security. But we also need a green corridor for our ports,” Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said in an online post.
Ukraine’s agriculture ministry on Tuesday said European countries were considering providing temporary silos to “preserve the harvest and secure future grain supplies”.
Ukraine says the best way to get grain exports moving again is through Black Sea shipments.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is trying to broker what he calls a “package deal” to resume Ukrainian Black Sea exports and Russian food and fertiliser exports, which Moscow says had been hit by sanctions. The UN has so far described talks with Russia as “constructive”.