What is the fate of the Ukrainian-Russian grain agreement?
Will the deal brokered by the United Nations with Turkeye’s help last year, which allowed the export of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea amid the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, be extended?
Ten days before the expiration of the grain agreement which was extended last November, after difficult negotiations, for 120 days, the UN Secretary-General will visit Kiev on Wednesday to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, his third visit to Ukraine since the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war, to discuss the issue, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.
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Ukraine is one of the world’s largest grain producers and exporters, but its exports have been hit by the war.
The grain agreement, brokered on 22 July by the UN and assisted by Turkeye, aimed to export grain stranded in Ukrainian ports due to the fighting and helped ease the global food crisis caused by the war in Ukraine.
The agreement made it possible to export about 20 million tons of grain from three Ukrainian ports. After being renegotiated in mid-November for four months in winter, the deal expires on March 18.
For his part, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu announced that Ankara is working hard to extend the agreement. “We are working hard to achieve smooth implementation and further extension of the Black Sea grain agreement,” he said.
Coinciding with the announcement of Guterres’ visit, a senior Ukrainian government official told Reuters on Tuesday that Ukraine had begun talks through an online call with its partners on extending the initiative to export grain across the Black Sea with the aim of ensuring Kyiv can continue to ship grain to world markets.
The official added that Ukraine has not held talks with Russia, which has blockaded Ukraine’s ports, but Kyiv is aware that its partners are in talks with Moscow.
“The situation of the negotiations is rather complicated, as much now depends on the partners, not on us,” the official said.
Moscow, for its part, says it will agree to extend the grain export deal across the Black Sea only if the interests of its agricultural producers are taken into account.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova reiterated this position a few days ago. The TASS news agency quoted Zakharova as saying: “If this agreement is fair, we always fulfill our part and we will fulfill it in all agreements.” She added that Russia would oppose “incitement and conspiracies.”
Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the West had “blatantly buried” the grain export deal, while his US counterpart Antony Blinken responded that Moscow had caused “deliberate and systematic delays in grain shipments and global extortion with food weapons.”
Western sanctions have not explicitly targeted Russian agricultural exports, but Moscow says restrictions on its payments, logistics, and insurance sector are a “hindrance” to its ability to export
Cereals and their own fertilizers.
According to Reuters data, Ukrainian grain exports fell 26.6 percent to 32.9 million tons in the 2022/2023 season until the sixth of March, affected by the decline in harvest and logistical difficulties caused by the war.
But what if the agreement is not extended?
This is a legitimate question in light of the uncertainty surrounding the fate of this agreement. Failure to extend it would re-raise global cereal and food prices, push millions more below the poverty line, and exacerbate already high inflation. It would also cause more problems for countries importing these grains.
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