- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Russia had agreed to extend a deal that allowed Ukraine to ship grain across the Black Sea to parts of the world struggling with hunger.
- Russia has set a deadline for Thursday to address its concerns, or the nation has threatened to withdraw.
- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced that the Black Sea Grain Initiative has been extended for another two months.
Russia has agreed to extend a deal that allowed Ukraine to ship grain across the Black Sea to parts of the world struggling with hunger, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Wednesday, a boost to global food security after the war which has been going on for more than a year. prices.
“I want to give some good news,” Erdogan said. “With the efforts of our country, the support of our Russian friends and the contribution of our Ukrainian friends, the Black Sea Grains Initiative has been extended for another two months.”
Turkey and the United Nations brokered the groundbreaking deal with the warring parties last summer, which came with a separate deal to ease shipments of Russian food and fertilizer that Moscow insists hasn’t been enforced.
Russia had threatened to withdraw if its concerns were not resolved by Thursday. Such calculated risk is nothing new: with a similar extension of the balance in March, Russia unilaterally decided to renew the agreement for another 60 days instead of the 120 days indicated in the agreement.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed the extension and that the problems will have to be resolved “at a technical level”. Neither she nor Erdogan mentioned any concessions Moscow may have received.
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“We will continue our efforts to ensure that all conditions of the agreement are met so that it continues into the coming period,” said Erdogan, who announced the eagerly-awaited decision two days after being forced into a runoff election in Turkey’s presidential election.
The extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative is a victory for countries in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia that depend on affordable Ukrainian wheat, barley, vegetable oil and other food products, especially as the drought has an impact. The deal has helped bring down the prices of foodstuffs like wheat over the past year, but that relief hasn’t reached the kitchen tables.
Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Kubrakov wrote on Facebook that “the world will continue to receive Ukrainian products thanks to the efforts” of Turkey and the United Nations
He blamed Russia for dragging its heel in joint inspections of vessels by Russian, Ukrainian, UN and Turkish officials and stressed that he welcomed the continuation of the deal, but that it “must work effectively.” .
Average daily inspections – meant to ensure ships are only carrying food and not weapons that could help both sides – have steadily declined from a peak of 10.6 in October to 3.2 last month. Shipments of Ukrainian wheat have also declined in recent weeks.
Russia had denied having slowed down the work. No vessels have been allowed to enter Ukraine’s three open ports since May 6, and Kubrakov says nearly 70 vessels are waiting in Turkish waters to participate.
Russia, meanwhile, is quickly sending a bumper crop of its grain through other ports. Critics say this suggests Moscow was posturing or trying to wring concessions in other areas, such as on Western sanctions.
The deal enabled the shipment of more than 30 million tons of Ukrainian grain, more than half of which went to developing countries. China, Spain and Turkey are the biggest beneficiaries and Russia says this shows that food is not reaching the poorest countries.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says Ukraine’s corn for animal feed is headed to developed countries, while “the majority” of grain destined for the people has gone to emerging economies.
Even though a “significant proportion” of shipments go to developed nations, this “has a positive impact on all countries because it lowers prices,” Guterres told reporters in Nairobi, Kenya, this month. “And when you lower your prices, everyone benefits.”
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William Osnato, a senior research analyst at agriculture data and analytics firm Gro Intelligence, said there was “bluster” from Russia to push to ease some sanctions because it is shipping record amounts of grain this season. and her fertilizers are flowing well too.
Trade flows tracked by financial data provider Refinitiv show Russia exported just over 4 million tonnes of wheat in April, the month’s highest volume in five years, following record or near-record highs several months earlier.
Exports since last July have reached 32.2 million tonnes, 34% more than in the same period last season, according to Refinitiv. Russia is estimated to ship 44 million tons of grain in 2022-2023.
With Ukraine’s wheat crop due in June and the need to sell that crop in July, maintaining a maritime corridor in the Black Sea is crucial to avoid “taking another big chunk of wheat and other grains off the market,” he said. Osnato.
Ukraine can also send its food overland through Europe, but these routes have a lower capacity than sea shipments and have created disunity in the European Union.
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It comes as places like Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Syria and East Africa – major food importers – are facing droughts and economic woes that are likely to keep food prices high.
“Food shortages in the system and lack of affordable fertilizer continue to drive up prices, making it difficult for families in countries like Somalia to predict whether they will be able to afford a meal the next day,” said Shashwat Saraf , Emergency Director for East Africa at the International Relief Committee.