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Black Sea grain deal collapses after Russia quits
FoodBev Media

FoodBev Media

18 July 2023

Black Sea grain deal collapses after Russia quits

The UN-brokered deal that facilitated the export of more than 30 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain to global markets via three Black Sea ports expired yesterday (17 July). António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said: “Today’s decision by the Russian Federation will strike a blow to people in need everywhere”. The Black Sea initiative was agreed by Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN in July last year, along with a parallel accord between the UN and Russia on grain and fertiliser exports from the country. With the decision, Russia has also withdrawn security guarantees for ships navigating in the northwestern part of the Black Sea. Russia told the UN shipping agency – the International Maritime Organization – that its "guarantees for the safety of navigation" had been revoked and that "proactive necessary actions and response measures to neutralise threats posed by the Kiev regime in the area will be taken”. “Ultimately, participation in these agreements is a choice. But struggling people everywhere and developing countries don’t have a choice,” Guterres said. He added: “At a time when the production and availability of food is being disrupted by conflict, climate change, energy prices and more, these agreements have helped to reduce food prices by over 23% since March last year". Guterres confirmed the news on Twitter:

I deeply regret Russia’s decision to terminate the implementation of the Black Sea Initiative, which has been a lifeline for global food security in a troubled world. Hundreds of millions facing hunger & consumers confronting a global cost-of-living crisis will pay the price.— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) July 17, 2023 US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Russia of a "continued weaponisation of food" that could harm millions of vulnerable people globally. According to Reuters, Moscow suggested that if demands to improve exports of its own grain and fertiliser were met, it would consider resurrecting the Black Sea agreement. However, Guterres said that a UN pact that aimed to help facilitate Russia’s shipments over the past year was also terminated. In a statement, Russia’s foreign ministry said: "Only upon receipt of concrete results, and not promises and assurances, will Russia be ready to consider restoring the deal". While Russian exports of food and fertiliser are not subject to sanctions imposed in the West after Russia's invasion, Moscow said restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance have amounted to a barrier to shipments. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he spoke with Guterres on Monday about trying to renew Black Sea shipments, while Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he believed Putin wants the deal to continue and would discuss it with him when they meet in person in August. A UN Security Council meeting held in Ukraine yesterday saw most countries urge Russia to resume the deal. Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy told the council there had been no progress on improving Russia's exports – he accused Ukraine of using "the cover of the open maritime corridor to wage provocations and attacks against Russian civilians and military objects," but did not provide evidence. Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told the council, "Russia is blackmailing the world. This blackmail affects the lives of millions of Ukrainians and tens of millions more around the world, primarily in Africa and Asia, who face the threat of rising food prices and hunger." Sophia Murphy, executive director, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, commented: “Russia’s decision to pull out of the Black Sea grain deal will deepen food insecurity in the world, including for many of the world’s most vulnerable people. The decision continues the steady erosion of Ukraine’s grain production and export capacity. The bombing of the Nova Kakhovka dam in June eliminated a crucial source of irrigation water for large parts of the country. Meanwhile, two of the global grain trade giants, Cargill and Viterra, announced in March their withdrawal from Russian terminals from 1 July. As farmgate prices fall, Ukrainian farmers will be wondering if planting grain is still worth the effort.” Jean-Michel Grand, executive director of Action Against Hunger UK, added: “It is deeply concerning to see hunger used as a tool in geopolitical conflicts, at a time when ensuring access to nutritious food should be a global priority. The present global hunger crisis is a result of a number of factors: climate change, unstable markets, gender inequality and poverty, to name but a few – and the ending of the Black Sea grain initiative threatens to compound this crisis by driving up the price of food and fertiliser." He finished: "Russia’s decision to withdraw highlights the need to ensure fragile food systems are shielded from international conflicts and that longer-term solutions, such as sustainable farming practices, are implemented.” Speaking on behalf of the news, ADM also said in a statement: "ADM strongly urges all involved parties to come together to reinstate and return to full operation the UN Grain Initiative. As one of the leading growers of wheat, corn and barley, Ukraine is a critical pillar of global food security, and the grain corridor has allowed Ukrainian farmers to continue to serve that vital role even amid Russia’s invasion." ADM added: "Since February 2022, in addition to prioritizing the safety of our Ukrainian colleagues and their families, ADM has been focused on supporting Ukrainian farmers and ensuring the flow of food to those who need it around the world. We'll continue to use all of our resources and work with all of our partners to find other routes for Ukrainian grain to reach world markets, but there is no true substitute for Ukraine's ports on the Black Sea. ADM is committed to supporting an agreement for safe passage of food and ag products through the grain corridor. We believe this is critical to serving global nutrition needs, to Ukraine's agriculture sector, and to economic recovery when the war is over." You may also like to read:
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