© 2024 South Carolina Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Former SC Gov. David Beasley Working to Rebuild Food Supply Chain for Ukrainians

File photo of David Beasley
Casa de América
File photo of David Beasley

David Beasley, Executive Director for the UN's World Food Programme, describes current challenges and possible long-term food supply chain problems that could go beyond Ukraine

As Russian military strikes continue to pummel the Eastern European country of Ukraine, humanitarian aid organizations are doing their level-best to reach those who have been displaced by those strikes, and whose homes are facing threats of further military campaigns by Russian forces.

Among those humanitarian organizations working to assist the nearly 40 million Ukrainians who still remain within its borders is recent Nobel Peace Prize Recipient, The United Nation’s World Food Programme, led under the executive directorship of former South Carolina Governor David Beasley.

According to Beasley, the World Food Programme currently has a couple of hundred staff members on the ground in Ukraine trying to get provisions over the next 30 to 60 days to the 2.5 million people who have been displaced and are under the impending threat of extreme cold and hunger.

Beasley has been in Ukraine since this past Sunday. He described the condition of the 2.5 million refugees who have been displaced by military campaigns within the country as being in “a very, very desperate situation.” Beasley says the refugees literally have only the clothes on their back, have no transportation, have run out of fuel, and are about to freeze and/or starve to death.

While those 2.5 million Ukrainians need immediate help over the next two weeks, Beasley, who’s been the Executive Director of the World Food Programme since 2017, sees an even greater problem growing for more Ukrainians on the horizon. He says their food supply chain has already been significantly disrupted, and that are currently 40 million people who could be desperately hungry soon if that supply chain isn’t built to reach the people in need.

80% of the areas the World Food Programme serves are within areas of conflict or war zones, so it’s something the agency has experience with, but Beasley says this conflict is different. His visit to the Ukraine is the third in less than two weeks to an area that’s traditionally been known as “The Breadbasket of Europe.” Ukraine has been one of the largest suppliers of grain in the world. Beasley says the repercussions of its food supply breakdown will have a long-term, worldwide effect.

“Between Ukraine and Russia, they produce 30% of the wheat for the entire world, 20% corn for the entire world, 80% of sunflower oil for the entire world, and that is stuck now. So, that’s going to have an incredible commodity impact on pricing globally. You’re going to see pricing on food and fuels spike beyond anything you’ve ever seen over the next nine months. If those farmers can’t get into the fields, well, I hate to tell you, but around October/November, you think food pricing and inflation is bad? Wait til the fall.”

Despite Russian military aggressions, the World Food Programme is working to secure safe warehouses to keep Ukraine’s food chain intact and moving. But Beasley says the military conflict is just one of many factors now affecting the supply and security of the country’s food chain.

“Food prices are worse, but now you have COVID economic impact, you have climate impact, you have conflict impact…all these things are creating a perfect storm that’s going to be catastrophic for the poorest of the poor, and it’s going to bring inflationary costing and commodity pricing and food pricing spikes throughout the rest of the year, so this thing needs to get resolved quickly, otherwise, everybody’s going to pay the price, especially the poorest of the poor.”

Beasley says the conflict in the Ukraine has created an estimated expense of $70 million more for operating expenses per month for the World Food Programme. The World Feeding Programme feeds 125 million people worldwide. However, if his organization does not receive the additional funding now needed, Beasley says 4 million fewer people will get fed.

Additional information on the United Nations World Food Programme can be found here: https://www.wfp.org/

Linda Núñez is a South Carolina native, born in Beaufort, then moved to Columbia. She began her broadcasting career as a journalism student at the University of South Carolina. She has worked at a number of radio stations along the East Coast, but is now happy to call South Carolina Public Radio "home." Linda has a passion for South Carolina history, literature, music, nature, and cooking. For that reason, she enjoys taking day trips across the state to learn more about our state’s culture and its people.