US to push Russia to fulfil Ukraine grain deal, calls out China for stockpiling

(Clockwise from top left) Ukraine Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres attend a signing ceremony in Turkey for the grain agreement. PHOTO: AFP

UNITED NATIONS (REUTERS) - The United States said on Friday (July 22) it will hold Russia accountable for implementing a UN-brokered deal to resume Ukraine's Black Sea grain exports and called out China for stockpiling grain that could be used for global humanitarian needs.

Russia and Ukraine are major global wheat suppliers, but Moscow's Feb 24 invasion of its neighbour sent food prices soaring, stoking a global food crisis the World Food Programme says has pushed some 47 million people into "acute hunger."

Russia and Ukraine signed a landmark deal on Friday to reopen Ukrainian Black Sea ports for grain exports. The war has stalled Kyiv's exports, leaving dozens of ships stranded and some 20 million tonnes of grain stuck in silos.

US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said Washington hopes the deal "will help mitigate the crisis Russia has caused," adding that "we will be watching closely to ensure that Russia actually follows through."

The United States also wants to see China help combat the global food crisis, James O'Brien, head of the US State Department's Office of Sanctions Coordination, told reporters.

"We would like to see it act like the great power that it is and provide more grain to the poor people around the world," he said.

"China has been a very active buyer of grain and it is stockpiling grain... at a time when hundreds of millions of people are entering the catastrophic phase of food insecurity."

China's grain stocks at the end of the 2021/22 season were estimated by the International Grains Council to be 323.4 million tonnes, more than half the global total of 607.4 million.

It dwarfs those of the United States, the world's top grain exporter, which were estimated at 57.8 million tonnes.

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"We would like to see them play more of a role of making the grain available from their own stockpiles and by allowing WFP (World Food Programme) and others to obtain grain," said O'Brien.

He said he some 40 per cent of the first grain shipments out of Ukraine in April went to China "which was awkward", adding: "It would have been much better to see that grain going to Egypt, in the Horn of Africa and other places."

China's Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment on O'Brien's remarks.

"We believe it's essential that food, including grain, go everywhere where it's needed," deputy UN spokesman Farhan Haq said on Friday.

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