Last Ship Departs: Ukraine’s Grain Export Deal Hangs in Balance as Russia Demands Remain Unmet

Last Ship Departs Ukraine as Grain Export Deal Reaches Deadline

The last ship carrying Ukraine’s grain has left the country’s Black Sea port of Odesa, according to MarineTraffic data site, just a day before the deadline for an extension of the export deal. The TQ Samsun departed on Sunday, with Reuters news agency confirming the claim made by MarineTraffic. This development comes as Russia has refused to extend the United Nations-brokered deal unless its demands regarding its own grain and fertilizers are met.

The export deal, struck in July 2022 amid concerns of global food shortages following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, allowed for the shipment of over 30 million tonnes of grain and other foods out of Ukraine. Both Ukraine and Russia are leading global grain exporters. The Turkish-flagged ship, TQ Samsun, set sail from Odesa at around 08:00 local time (05:00 GMT) and is headed to Istanbul.

While Ukraine has not made any public statements regarding the issue, Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated that Moscow could suspend its participation in the agreement. He cited unmet commitments to remove obstacles to Moscow’s own food exports and the reconnection of its agricultural payment bank, Rosselkhozbank, to the global Swift payment network. The European Union has previously stated that it has no plans to reinstate Russian banks that were sanctioned due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed confidence in another extension of the deal after discussing the matter with Putin. The agreement is meant to be extended for 120 days at a time, but Russia agreed to 60-day extensions in both March and May 2023. Prior to the last extension, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urgently met with UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Zelensky emphasized the importance of ensuring there is no hunger worldwide.

Ukrainian exports through the country’s Black Sea ports were initially blocked by Russian warships following the invasion in February 2022. The grain deal, however, opened a safe corridor across the Black Sea, enabling the shipment of more than 30 million tonnes of grain and other foods. The majority of Ukraine’s grain exports, 47 percent, went to high-income countries like Spain and Italy, while 26 percent went to upper-middle-income countries including Turkey and China. Meanwhile, 27 percent reached low and lower-middle-income countries like Egypt and Sudan.

Putin criticized Ukraine for not exporting more to developing nations. However, the UN argues that the grain deal has had a positive impact on global food markets by increasing the availability of food products and subsequently reducing global prices.