Russia suspends Black Sea grain deal in blow to global food security – National

Russia on Monday suspended an unprecedented wartime pact allowing the shipment of grain to countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, where the threat of hunger is growing and soaring food prices are pushing more people into poverty.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that despite Russia shipping record amounts of wheat and fertilizer spills, the Black Sea Grain Initiative will continue until the demands to ship its agricultural products to the world are met. announced that it would be temporarily suspended.

“As soon as the parts of the Black Sea Agreement that relate to Russia are implemented, Russia will immediately return to fulfilling the agreement,” Peskov said. Russia complains that transport and insurance restrictions are preventing exports of food and fertilizers, which are also vital to the global food chain.

It marks the end of a landmark deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey last summer to allow food to be taken out of the Black Sea region after Russia invaded its neighbor about a year and a half ago. The agreement ensured that ships entering and leaving Ukrainian ports would not be attacked.

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Another agreement facilitated the movement of Russian food and fertilizer amid Western sanctions.

All conflict countries are major global suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other affordable food commodities upon which developing countries depend. Analysts don’t expect much more than a temporary rise in food prices as wheat and corn exports from countries such as Russia and Brazil gradually increase, but food insecurity is on the rise.

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The agreement was renewed for 60 days in May, amidst a backlash from Moscow. In recent months, the amount of food and the number of ships leaving Ukraine have plummeted, and Russia has been accused of preventing additional ships from participating.

Ukrainian officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

The war in Ukraine sent food prices soaring to record highs last year, making it part of a global food crisis linked to other conflicts, the prolonged impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, droughts and other climate factors. was the cause.

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High prices for staple grains in regions such as Egypt, Lebanon and Nigeria exacerbated economic challenges, pushing millions more into poverty and food insecurity.

People in developing countries spend more money on food. Poorer countries that rely on dollar-priced imported food are also spending more as their currencies weaken, and climate issues are forcing them to import more. Somalia, Kenya, Morocco, Tunisia and others are suffering from drought.

Global food prices such as wheat and vegetable oil have fallen, but food was already expensive in Ukraine before the war, and the relief hasn’t spilled over to the kitchen table.

Simon Evenett, a professor of international trade and economic development at the university, said, “The Black Sea Accord is absolutely critical to the food security of many countries,” and its loss is linked to high debt levels and climate change. He said it would exacerbate the problem for countries facing it. of St. Gallen, Switzerland.

Rising interest rates and weakening currencies aimed at targeting inflation “make it difficult for many developing countries to finance dollar purchases in global markets,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Russia suspends participation in Black Sea grain export deal'

Russia suspends participation in Black Sea grain export deal

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said this month that 45 countries are in need of external food assistance and that high local food prices are “causing alarming levels of hunger” in those regions.

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According to the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul, the Black Sea Grain Initiative will allow three Ukrainian ports to export 32.9 million tonnes of grain and other food to the world, more than half of which goes to developing countries. .

But the deal has faced setbacks, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, and Russia briefly withdrew in November before rejoining and extending the deal.

In March and May, Russia planned to extend the pact for only 60 days instead of the usual 120 days. Monthly grain shipments fell from a peak of 4.2 million tons in October to a low of 1.3 million tons in May. since trading began.

Exports rose to just over 2 million tonnes in June, thanks to larger vessels capable of carrying more cargo.

Asked on Monday whether the attack on the bridge linking Crimea with Russia was a factor in the decision to settle the grain deal, a Kremlin spokesman said no.

“No, these developments are not connected,” Peskov said. “Even before this terrorist attack, President (Vladimir) Putin had expressed our position on it.”

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Ukraine has accused Russia of blocking new vessels from joining since the end of June, with 29 ships waiting to join the plan off the coast of Turkey. Joint inspections aimed at ensuring that ships carry only grain and no weapons that could help both sides have also been significantly delayed.

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The average number of tests per day has steadily declined from a peak of 11 in October to about 2.3 in June. Ukrainian and US officials blame Russia for the slowdown.

Meanwhile, Russian wheat shipments hit a record high following a strong harvest. The US Department of Agriculture estimates that there will be 45.5 million tonnes of exports in the 2022-2023 trade year, with a further 47.5 million tonnes expected to be recorded in 2023-2024.

Caitlin Welsh, director of the Global Food and Water Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the figure so far is more than any country exported wheat in a year.

© 2023 Canadian Press

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