Russia Halts Grain Deal, Threatening Global Food Security Amid Rising Prices and Bridge Explosion

Russia Suspends Grain Deal with Ukraine, Raises Concerns about Global Food Security

In a significant blow to global food security, Russia has announced that it is halting its participation in a deal that allowed Ukraine to ship grain through the Black Sea to regions facing hunger. The decision comes following an explosion that destroyed Russia’s bridge to Crimea, which Moscow claims was an attack by Ukrainian sea drones. While the Kremlin denies any connection between the attack and its decision to suspend the grain deal, it cites a failure to implement a parallel agreement easing rules for Russia’s own food and fertilizer exports as the reason for the halt.

The landmark agreement, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July 2021, aimed to facilitate shipments of Ukrainian grain to parts of the world in need. Under the deal, Ukraine has exported more than 32 million metric tonnes of corn, wheat, and other grains. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has expressed his country’s readiness to continue grain exports, even without Russia’s participation. However, alternative routes such as river ports would incur higher transportation costs.

The suspension of the grain deal further heightens concerns about global food prices and access. The Black Sea agreement played a crucial role in stabilizing the markets and lowering food prices worldwide. The United Nations reports that the arrangement contributed to a more than 20 percent reduction in food prices globally. Nana Ndeda, a humanitarian policy and advocacy lead at Save the Children, warns that the suspension is likely to lead to increased food prices, impeding countries’ ability to supply food to vulnerable populations and exacerbating malnutrition and food insecurity.

Russia, one of the world’s largest agricultural producers, has complained that not enough grain has been reaching poor countries. However, the UN asserts that the arrangement has benefited these states significantly. While Western sanctions do not apply to Russian food and fertilizer exports, Moscow claims that restrictions on payments, logistics, and insurance pose barriers to shipments. One key demand from Russia is the reconnection of the Russian Agricultural Bank (Rosselkhozbank) to the SWIFT international payments system, from which it was cut off by the European Union in June 2022.

International reactions to Russia’s decision have been highly critical. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres laments the move, stating that “hundreds of millions of people face hunger,” and emphasizing the detrimental impact on global food security. The White House expresses concern over worsened food security and calls Russia’s suspension of the pact “unconscionable.” The US ambassador to the UN accuses Russia of holding “humanity hostage” and decries the move as an “act of cruelty.” The United Kingdom denounces Russia’s decision as the use of food as a weapon and calls for the renewal of the agreement.

As the situation unfolds, the hope remains that a solution can be found to address Russia’s concerns and ensure the continuation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, safeguarding global food security.