A cargo ship sails through the mouth of Bystre, which connects the Black Sea and the Danube, at a location designated as the Izmail district of Odessa region, Ukraine, in this screenshot obtained from a video released July 15, 2022. Operational Command Southern Press Service/Handout via REUTERS

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UNITED NATIONS, July 22 (Reuters) – The United States said on Friday it would hold Russia accountable for implementing a UN-brokered deal to resume Ukrainian grain exports from the Black Sea and called on China to stockpile grain that could be used for global humanitarian needs.

Russia and Ukraine are the world’s main suppliers of wheat, but Moscow’s February 24 invasion of its neighbor has driven up food prices, stoking a global food crisis that the World Food Program says has plunged some 47 million people in “acute hunger”.

Russia and Ukraine on Friday signed a landmark agreement to reopen Ukraine’s Black Sea ports for grain exports. The war has blocked exports from Kyiv, leaving dozens of ships stranded and some 20 million tonnes of grain stuck in silos. Read more

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US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Washington hopes the deal “will help ease the crisis caused by Russia”, adding that “we will be watching closely to ensure that Russia actually goes all the way.”

The United States also wants to see China help tackle the global food crisis, James O’Brien, head of the US State Department’s Office of Sanctions Coordination, told reporters.

“We would like to see it act like the great power that it is and deliver more grain to the poor around the world,” he said. “China has been a very active grain buyer and is stockpiling grain…at a time when hundreds of millions of people are entering the catastrophic phase of food insecurity.”

China’s grain stocks at the end of the 2021/22 season were estimated by the International Grains Council at 323.4 million tonnes, more than half of the world total of 607.4 million. It eclipses those of the United States, the world’s largest exporter of cereals, which were estimated at 57.8 million tonnes.

“We would like to see them play a bigger role in making grain available from their own stocks and enabling WFP (World Food Programme) and others to get grain,” O’Brien said.

He said around 40% of the first grain shipments from Ukraine in April were destined for China “which was inconvenient”, adding: “It would have been much better to see this grain going to Egypt, in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere.”

The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment on O’Brien’s remarks.

“We believe it is essential that food, including grain, goes where it is needed,” UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said on Friday.

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Additional reporting by Nigel Hunt; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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