Russia using Ukrainian soil as ‘a weapon of hunger’, potato forum hears

‘EU will not stand aside. Together with Ukraine, we shall use food for the defence of peace’

Russia is taking Ukrainian soil and using it as “a weapon of hunger” against the country’s people and the world’s most vulnerable communities, the EU agriculture commissioner has said.

Opening the World Potato Congress at the RDS, Dublin, on Monday – which is being attended by 1,000 delegates from 60 countries – Janusz Wojciechowski said the EU would respond to this use of food as a weapon of war through close co-operation with Ukrainian farmers who were “fighting at day and working to provide food at night”.

“The EU will not stand aside. Together with Ukraine, we shall use food for the defence of peace,” he added.

He highlighted the plight of farm families caught in the crossfire of war. “These are the farmers who feed so much of the world. Now they are working in their fields, and dying in their fields.”


The UN with EU support had sent more than 860 tonnes of seed potatoes to more than 17,000 families in Ukraine and was assisting with exports, notably of grain, the commissioner said.

“By doing this, we can make room for further production, we can ensure vital income for the Ukrainian economy; we can maintain Ukraine’s role as the bread basket of the world,” he said. “The foundations of our society are rooted in food security. And the foundations of food security rest on the work of our farmers and the health of our environment, our climate, natural resources and biodiversity.”

Mr Wojciechowski rejected suggestions that “food security is not an issue in the EU”, noting the number of people facing severe food insecurity had doubled in two years – from 135 million before the pandemic to 276 million today. “More than half a million are experiencing famine conditions – an increase of over 500 per cent since 2016. Their hunger is our hunger. It is the same hunger that affected our people, in Ireland, in Poland and the rest of Europe, across our history. It is a history that cannot be repeated.”

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said Ireland had a unique collection of potato varieties at the Tops Potato Propagation Centre in Donegal.

“This is an essential contribution to ensure a flow of sustainable new varieties, technological advances and innovations which will help to achieve our climate and sustainability goals for the greater global public good,” he said.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times