Russia Termination Threatens Black Sea Grain Deal: Global Food Prices at Risk

Russia Terminates U.N.-Brokered Deal on Ukrainian Grain Exports

Moscow has officially ended a U.N.-brokered agreement that allowed the safe passage of Ukrainian grain exports through the Black Sea, citing unmet conditions. Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, stated that the Black Sea agreements are no longer valid as Russia’s requirements have not been fulfilled. He further emphasized that Russia would resume implementation of the deal once its conditions are met.

The Black Sea grain initiative, which was first established a year ago in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has been crucial in supporting Ukraine’s farmers and providing food to countries in the Global South. However, Russia’s withdrawal from the initiative poses a threat to food prices and market stability, according to Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra. Hoekstra criticized Moscow’s move, condemning its continued weaponization of food.

Russia has repeatedly expressed its unwillingness to extend the agreement, claiming that it is not benefiting from the pact. The Kremlin argues that hidden Western sanctions have hindered Russia’s food and fertilizer exports, thereby violating a separate deal with the UN. Despite a compromise proposal put forward by U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, Russia’s conditions for extending the pact remained unmet.

The last ship to travel under the agreement departed from Ukraine’s Odesa port on Sunday, marking the end of shipments under the initiative. As the deal ends, Kyiv is exploring alternative routes to export its grain and oilseed crops. Aid agencies are concerned about the impact on global food prices, warning that the world’s most vulnerable populations in food-insecure countries will be hit the hardest.

The termination of the agreement has also led to a rise in wheat prices, with cumulative gains reaching 12 percent since last week. Without the deal, Ukraine will have to transport most of its grain and oilseeds through the Danube river, increasing transport and logistics costs and potentially lowering prices for farmers. Furthermore, poor countries in Africa and the Middle East will become more dependent on Russian wheat, exacerbating global grain security concerns.

Moscow’s decision to withdraw from the initiative has drawn criticism from Ambassador Jim O’Brien, head of the State Department’s Office of Sanctions Coordination. He warned that Russia would be solely responsible for a devastating blow to global grain security, impacting the Global South in particular.

In conclusion, the termination of the U.N.-brokered agreement on Ukrainian grain exports through the Black Sea has significant implications for Ukraine’s farmers and food-insecure countries. Russia’s decision not to extend the deal has led to rising wheat prices and concerns about global grain security. As Ukraine explores alternative routes, the world’s most vulnerable populations face the potential impact of increased food prices. The situation highlights the ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine, with food becoming a weapon in their dispute.