Anti-poverty NGO "One" stages a protest with masks depicting France's President Emmanuel Macron (L) and Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz, as they hold a banner reading "Wheat is out", to draw attention to the impending hunger crisis, on June 24, 2022 in Garmisch Partenkirchen, southern Germany, days ahead of the G7 summit in Elmau. (Photo by CHRISTOF STACHE / AFP)

When it comes to the previous success of the seven leading Western industrialized nations in fighting global hunger, Welthungerhilfe comes to a negative conclusion. According to a position paper by the organization, the initiatives of the G7 countries to combat hunger have had only a weak effect for more than a decade.

Accordingly, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s “summit sherpa”, his economic adviser Jörg Kukies, made every effort at the summit meeting in Elmau to the end to collect financial commitments that were as ambitious as possible from the other G7 states. This is also intended to prevent the countries particularly affected from turning away from the West and towards Russia and China.

“There is definitely a great deal of commitment there,” says German government circles, with a view to the aid of the G7 countries for purchasing wheat from other sources or the support to be able to pay higher prices. Kukies, the former German head of the investment bank Goldman Sachs, is in charge of negotiating the relevant summit document.

On site in Elmau, organizations such as “Global Citizen” remind that the G7 agreed in 2015 to save 500 million people from famine, but now the situation has worsened fundamentally due to the Russian war. The G7 had promised to allocate 0.7 percent of their economic power to development and humanitarian aid. This must now be redeemed, because for the first time since 1998 global poverty is increasing again, and inflation is also worsening the situation. More than 800 million people, almost a tenth of the world’s population, live in extreme poverty on less than $1.90. Some diplomats suspect that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to provoke new flows of refugees to Europe with the lack of grain deliveries in order to further destabilize the West.

The situation has deteriorated dramatically since the beginning of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine and the subsequent bottleneck in grain exports. Countries on the Horn of Africa such as South Sudan are particularly affected, and the UN World Food Program has had to cut food rations for 1.7 million people there due to a lack of donations. At a press conference in Elmau, EU Council President Charles Michel therefore called for a quick solution to the conflict over grain deliveries from Ukraine. “We don’t need speeches, we need actions.” The blockade of Ukrainian ports, in which 22 million tons of grain were stored, must be lifted. “We must act immediately.”

Specifically, the question is how grain can be exported from Ukraine despite Putin’s blockade in the Black Sea. If the efforts of the United Nations to reopen the Black Sea route should fail, exports by land, which are already practiced, would increasingly come into focus. On Friday, after their deliberations in Berlin, the G7 foreign ministers declared their support for an action plan by the EU Commission that envisages the transport of grain by road, rail or ship across the Danube.

However, only part of the grain that is usually transported across the Black Sea can be transported this way so far: while five million tons of grain left the Ukraine per month in the pre-war period, it was almost two million tons last May. In an interview with the Tagesspiegel, Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir (Greens) mentioned, among other things, the construction of a broad-gauge railway connection between Ukraine and Baltic ports for permanent food exports from Ukraine.

Aid organizations have great expectations of the Elmau summit. The meeting in the Bavarian Alps must be “a lifeline for millions of people who otherwise face starvation in the coming weeks and months,” explains Welthungerhilfe Secretary General Mathias Mogge. Experts such as agricultural economist Matin Qaim fear that the war in Ukraine could mean that another 100 million people around the world are at risk of starvation.

This Monday, a working session attended by representatives of host countries such as South Africa and India will be devoted to global food security. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi plays a crucial role when it comes to the global grain market. In May, India imposed a general ban on grain exports due to the heat wave and the expected poor crop yields, which was subsequently relaxed.

India has only a small share of global grain exports. Nevertheless, after Modi’s export ban, the prices for grain on the commodity futures markets skyrocketed again. Modi, who, like South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, attended a meeting of the so-called Brics states with Russia and China before the summit, will be told by the G-7 representatives that Russia is responsible for the escalation – and not Western ones sanctions.

One of the recipients of this message is Senegal’s head of state, Macky Sall, who, as the current president of the African Union, is also among the guests in Elmau. After a meeting with Putin, Sall accused the EU of impeding exports of Russian grain and fertilizers with its sanctions – even though these products are not on the EU sanctions list.