Pope urges lifting of Ukraine wheat export block

STORY: Speaking at his general audience to thousands of people in St. Peter's Square, he said the block should be lifted because many millions of people depend on wheat from Ukraine, particularly in the world's poorest countries.

The United Nations, which says a global food crisis is deepening, is trying to broker a deal to unblock Ukraine's grain exports though Western leaders have blamed Russia for holding the world to ransom by blockading Ukrainian ports.

Besides the death and devastation sown by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the war and the West's attempt to isolate Russia as punishment have sent the price of grain, cooking oil, fertiliser and energy soaring, hurting global growth.

The pope has often condemned the invasion and the bloodshed the war has caused. Wednesday was the first time he spoke in detail of the global food crisis it has caused, with the price of grain, cooking oil and fertilizer soaring.

Ukraine is desperately trying to export its vast stores of grain by road, river and rail to help avert a global food crisis but has no chance of hitting its targets unless Russia's blockade of its Black Sea ports is lifted, an official at Ukraine's Agriculture Ministry told Reuters last week.

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