Turkey’s Crucial Role in Alleviating the Middle East’s Food Crisis
The Black Sea grain initiative has played a significant role in the Middle East, avoiding a catastrophic food crisis since Russia invaded Ukraine 500 days ago. But as Russia withdraws from the accord, worries of another supply deficit and sharply rising wheat prices for the region’s most vulnerable nations, such as Yemen and Syria, are growing. Turkey plays a crucial part in the developing crisis due to its significant location in Black Sea geopolitics and crucial position in the Middle East’s supply chain for bread made from wheat.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative and Its Impact
Before the invasion, Ukraine was the fifth-largest exporter of wheat in the world and a big supplier to numerous Middle Eastern countries close to its Black Sea ports. Nevertheless, as soon as hostilities began, shipments from these ports ceased, leaving 20 million tonnes of grain stranded. Bread shortages spread throughout the area due to the subsequent price increase, which by March 2022 had increased by 64% from the previous year.
The UN and Turkish-mediated Black Sea grain project offered a critical solution. As part of the agreement, Russia promised to ensure the safe transit of grain-laden cargo ships from Ukrainian Black Sea ports via the Bosphorus Strait and to guarantee that no weapons were present on board. Ukraine shipped some 32.8 tonnes of wheat, corn, sunflower oil, and other agrifood products over the course of the agreement’s 360 days, greatly enhancing the region’s food supply chain.
Turkey’s Pivotal Role in the Middle East’s Food Supply
Turkey is a crucial actor in easing the food crisis in the Middle East because of its strategic location in the Black Sea geopolitics and distinctive agricultural export profile. Most of the Black Sea pact grain went to high- and middle-income countries. Despite the severe humanitarian need in troubled regions across Africa and Asia, China, Spain, and Turkey were the top three receivers. The substantial grain supply from Turkey was vital in ensuring Yemen, Syria, and Iraq had access to food.
Laws safeguard Turkey’s domestic wheat resources as it is the world’s top importer of wheat and the biggest exporter of flour and pasta. As a result, imported wheat is necessary for its lucrative flour and pasta exports. With Turkey providing around 87% of Iraq’s flour imports, Turkey is an essential source of flour for that country. Despite complicated geopolitical conditions, Yemen and Syria depend on Turkish flour shipments to feed their populations.
Challenges and Uncertainties Ahead
Russia has cancelled the Black Sea grain agreement; therefore, the situation is still ambiguous. Turkey is at the forefront of crisis management due to its crucial role in allowing the movement of wheat to bread across the Middle East. If Ukraine decides to keep exporting grains, Turkey’s assistance in providing escort and inspections will be essential. But the likelihood of a naval conflict between Moscow and Ankara looms enormous, casting doubt on the agreement’s viability.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Turkey’s participation in the Black Sea grain project has been crucial in preventing a catastrophic food catastrophe in the Middle East. The most vulnerable nations in the area, like Yemen and Syria, now face an unclear future as the accord is in peril. The international community must cooperate to ensure appropriate wheat supplies to Turkey to protect bread production and supply in these troubled regions. Turkey’s crucial role in the supply chain from wheat to bread may be the key to solving the region’s food problem.