No Russian Security, Shipping Grain Out of Ukrainian Black Sea Ports Now Risky
Russia has kicked billions of people in the stomach by withdrawing from the critical Black Sea grain deal which was brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in 2022. The deal made export of grain from Ukraine possible as it has been caught in a military conflict with the Kremlin for 18 months now.
The Black Sea grain deal eased the impact on global food prices and averted a global food crisis. But now that Russia has stepped back, world markets will take a significant hit. Moscow said the deal failed to help Russian exports to reach world markets because of Western sanctions on the country.
Dmitry Peskov, Russia’s spokesperson, said the deal will not be extended until a series of conditions Moscow tabled are met. “When the respective parts for Russia’s benefit are fulfilled, Russia will return to the deal.” Russian President Vladimir Putin told South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, over a weekend call, that the key objective of supplying grain to countries in need had not been achieved.
The deal had ensured Ukrainian ships transport grain from its Black Sea ports of Yuzhny, Odesa and Chornomorsk to the Bosporus without being attacked. The Russian foreign ministry said the termination of the deal also means “withdrawal of navigation safety guarantees, curtailment of the maritime humanitarian corridor, and restoration of the regime of a temporarily dangerous area in the northwestern Black Sea.
However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is adamant on supplying the country’s grains. “We are not afraid. We were approached by companies that own ships. They said that they are ready if Ukraine and Turkey are ready to continue, then everyone is ready to continue supplying grain.” Zelensky has also had talks with UN boss Antonio Guterres about restoring grain supply through the Black Sea route.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) said the ongoing conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraine presents a serious and immediate threat to the safety and security of crews and vessels operating in the region. It highlighted that over 60 merchant vessels, in early 2023, were unable to participate in the Black Sea Initiative, and remain stranded across the ports of Ukraine.
Rising Food Prices
As governments across the world struggle with inflation, the termination of the Black Sea deal threatens to push up food prices. Guterres warned that hundreds of millions of people face hunger and consumers are confronting a global cost-of-living crisis. The Black Sea deal in 2022 had stabilized prices, and allowed about 30 million tons of food to be moved from Ukraine’s ports.
The UN said the deal was a lifeline for global food security and a beacon of hope. “With the decision to terminate the Black Sea Initiative, the Russian Federation also terminated its commitment to facilitate the unimpeded export of food, sunflower oil, and fertilizers from Ukrainian controlled Black Sea Ports.”
Experts have sounded the alarm saying failure to renew the Black Sea Grain deal would further deepen food insecurity and have devastating consequences on a population already struggling to receive basic goods and services, like in Lebanon and Egypt among others.