Experts have warned global food supplies will take years to stabilise even if the Ukraine war ended immediately.
The grim assessment from Western officials came as Liz Truss accused Russia of ‘weaponising hunger’ by blockading grain exports.
Speaking at a press conference alongside counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara, Ms Truss warned the crisis is ‘urgent’ and must be solved in the next month to avoid ‘devastating consequences’.
Ukraine is known as the world’s ‘bread basket’, producing vast quantities of wheat, corn and sunflower oil.
But Vladimir Putin‘s invasion and restriction of access to Black Sea ports, including Odesa, has halted much of that flow.
The impact has already been seen in soaring prices, with food the biggest factor alongside energy in the latest eye-watering UK inflation figures yesterday.
Senior Western officials underlined the problems being caused, with Ukraine exporting one million tonnes of grain a month rather than the normal five million.
While rail and road exports could be boosted, it could not fill the gap left by the sea routes.
And the experts said there would be a ‘lag’ even if the hostilities ended straight away, as the harvest had been badly disrupted, infrastructure damaged and sea lanes mined.
‘If tomorrow the war was over, we are still looking at a two-year crisis globally,’ one official said.
Liz Truss (left in Turkey today) accused Vladimir Putin (right) of ‘weaponising hunger’ today as she vowed to work with Turkey to find ways around the Ukraine grain blockade
Ms Truss said the UK’s long-standing alliance with Turkey is ‘more important than ever’ at a time when ‘security, sovereignty and self-determination are under threat’.
She said the countries are working ‘closely together’, in particular to get the ‘grain out of Ukraine’.
The Foreign Secretary said Putin was trying to ‘hold the world to ransom’.
‘He is using food security as a callous tool of war. He has blocked Ukrainian ports, and is stopping 20 million tonnes of grain being exported across the globe, holding the world to ransom,’ she said.
‘I’m here in Turkey to discuss the plan to get the grain out, supported by the United Nations.
‘We’re clear that commercial vessels need to have safe passage to be able to leave Ukrainian ports, and that Ukrainian ports should be protected from Russian attacks.
‘We support the UN talks, but Russia cannot be allowed to delay and prevaricate. It’s urgent that action is taken within the next month ahead of the new harvest. And we’re determined to work with our allies to deliver this.’
She warned that the world could otherwise see ‘devastating consequences’.
Speaking at a press conference alongside counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara, Ms Truss warned the crisis is ‘urgent’ and must be solved in the next month to avoid ‘devastating consequences’
She added that the UK is offering its own ‘expertise’ on ways to bypass the Russian blockade.
‘It is going to require an international effort,’ she warned.
Ms Truss said it has been a ‘priority’ for her to visit Turkey in her role as Foreign Secretary, as she hopes to ‘deepen’ the relationship between the two countries.
She said the pair are going to start negotiating an ‘upgraded trade deal that goes further in areas like services, but also in areas like agriculture, which are not part of the current arrangements’.
‘We do need to increase our industrial capacity and that is an area we’re also focusing on,’ she said.