Antonio Guterres was speaking at a meeting of world leaders called to discuss the escalating food security crisis. Mr Guterres said that the number of people facing severe food insecurity had doubled in just two years from 135 million before the coronavirus pandemic to 276 million today.
The number of people living in famine conditions has increased by more than 500 percent since 2016 and now sits at more than 500,000.
He said: “The complex security, economic and financial implications require goodwill on all sides for a package deal to be reached.
“I will not go into details because public statements could undermine the chances of success.
“There is still a long way to go.”
Ukraine and Russia produce almost a third of the world’s wheat and barley, and half of its sunflower oil.
Mr Guterres said: “There is no effective solution to the food crisis without reintegrating Ukraine’s food production, as well as the food and fertiliser produced by Russia and Belarus, into world markets, despite the war.”
He said he is in “intense contacts” with Russia and other key countries in the hope of an agreement to allow the export of grain stored in Ukrainian ports and to give Russian food and fertiliser unrestricted access to world markets.
David Beasley, head of the UN World Food Programme, was also at the meeting and said: “Failure to open the ports will be a declaration of war on global food security, resulting in famines and destabilisation of nations as well as mass migration by necessity.
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“This is not just about Ukraine – this is about the poorest of the poor around the world who are on the brink of starvation as we speak.
“So I ask (Russian) President Putin, if you have any heart at all, to please open these ports… so that we can feed the poorest of the poor and avert famine, as we’ve done in the past, when nations in this room have stepped up together.”
The meeting was chaired by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said the world is facing the “greatest global food security crisis of our time”.
He continued: “Governments and international organisations can also come together to compel the Russian Federation to create corridors so that food and other vital supplies can safely leave Ukraine by land or by sea.
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“There are an estimated 22 million tonnes of grain sitting in silos in Ukraine right now, food that could immediately go toward helping those in need if it can simply get out of the country.”
He called on countries to give more to humanitarian organisations and for those with significant grain and fertiliser reserves to come forward quickly.