Canadian-owned Viterra grain terminal attacked by Russians in Ukraine

A view of the damage to the Nika Tera grain terminal, as Russian attacks on Ukraine continue, in Mykolaiv, Ukraine June 12, 2022.EDGAR SU / Reuters

Grain storage terminals owned by Canadian-owned Viterra and United States company Bunge Ltd. BG-N have been attacked by Russian forces in a move that may further undermine global food security.

Viterra has confirmed to multiple news outlets that its Everi terminal in southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv was hit on Wednesday and is on fire. The company said that nobody was killed but one employee is being treated for burns.

Viterra’s biggest shareholder is Anglo Swiss mining and commodities trading conglomerate Glencore AG, but two Canadian pension funds, CPP Investments and British Columbia Investment Management Corporation, also own significant stakes.

St. Louise-based Bunge, which has a grain facility in Mykolaiv, was also targeted, Reuters reported. Bunge said the plant had been closed since Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year, and there were no fatalities.

The attacks on the grain handlers comes as countries around the world have scrambled to find a way to move food out of Ukraine’s ports. Russian invasion of Ukraine in February touched off a global food crisis – threatening the food supply of hundreds of millions of people around the world.

Before the war, Ukraine – a major producer of wheat, corn and vegetable oils – exported enough food to feed 400 million people around the world, most of it through the country’s seven Black Sea ports. But since the invasion, those ports have been blocked, leaving millions of metric tons of grain stranded in silos, ports and ships. Meanwhile, sanctions on Russia and its allies – major producers of grain, as well as fertilizer and cooking oil too – have caused further strains to food supply.

Viterra used to be a publicly-traded Canadian-based company, and through the 2000s, it was run by well-known agribusiness executive Mayo Schmidt. He transformed the regional co-operative into a global fertilizer, crop chemicals and seed giant. In 2012, Viterra was acquired by Glencore for $ 6.1-billion. Glencore later sold half of the business to CPP Investments and British Columbia Investment Management Corporation.

As of the end of last year, Viterra held US $ 417-million in assets in Ukraine.

The conflict in Ukraine has led to soaring food prices around the world. In the immediate months following Russia invasion, export prices for wheat and corn skyrocketed by over 20 per cent.

But in the world poorest countries, the results have been even more dire. Many of these countries, particularly in the Middle East and Africa, rely on the region for its staple food products. Lebanon, for instance, depends on Ukraine for about 80 per cent of its wheat.

Unless the war is resolved immediately, the World Food Program says an additional 47 million people around the world will be thrust into acute hunger. “We’re running out of time,” WFP executive director David Beasley said last month. “The cost of the injection will be higher than anyone can imagine.”

In recent weeks, the United Nations had been working on a plan to ensure the safe passage of grain exports out of the region. Until earlier this month, UN officials had described negotiations with Russia on this plan as constructive.

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