March 30, 2023

Signed on July 22, 2022 Black Sea Grain Initiative – an agreement between the UN, Turkey, Russia and Ukraine on the creation of sea corridors for the safe export of Ukrainian grain – interrupted the five-month-long start of Russian aggression the blockade of Ukrainian ports, which could turn into a disaster for the poorest countries in the world due to the shortage of grain products and a sharp rise in prices for it.

Agreement term expires March 18,but in the Kremlin on Friday, March 17, they confirmed their readiness to extend it for 60 days – which is two times less than in November last year. Russia explains its position by the West’s unwillingness to remove restrictions on Russian agricultural products and fertilizers. Although food exports from Russia are not directly affected by the restrictive measures, Russian officials say secondary sanctions regarding logistics and insurance seriously hamper it.

What did the grain deal bring?

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in early March that the grain deal “has contributed to lowering the global cost of food and provided critical relief to people” and in February, World Food Program (WFP) director David Beasley called its reopening “critical.”

Bernard Lehmann, chair of the UN High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition, told DW that the grain deal had a significant impact on the fight against hunger in parts of North and East Africa, as well as the Middle East and Asia. “Without it, there would be a shortage of grain for imports to these regions, and prices would rise even more, which would make buying wheat from other countries very, very expensive,” he said. “Thus, the deal as a whole calmed the market, and the aforementioned countries only benefited from this,” the expert is sure.

William Moseley, director of the Food, Agriculture and Society Program at McAlister College, a private American college and also a member of the UN High-Level Panels on Food Security and Nutrition, called the deal “limitedly successful” as it contributed to an 8% drop in global grain prices. % and allowed Ukraine release the elevators and continue grain production. “The deal can be considered successful if its goal was to calm fears and stabilize grain prices,” he said.

According to the expert, grain prices have not yet returned to pre-war levels, and the deal itself underlined how vulnerable some African countries are to interruptions in the supply of imported grain and price volatility. Those states that produce their own grains, including traditional crops such as millet and sorghum, fared much better during the recent crisis, Moseley said.

Rocket debris in a wheat field
Rocket debris in a wheat fieldPhoto: Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images

“More localized production of a variety of crops in a few African countries is the best long-term solution,” he said. “The food crisis is most acutely felt in conflict-affected areas such as Somalia and Yemen. The UN Food Program, which helps with food emergencies, historically supplies a lot of grain from Ukraine,” Moseley recalled.

Grain for the rich?

Critics of the grain deal argue that richer countries, including many EU states, have received more grain from Ukraine since the end of the blockade than countries in poorer regions. It’s true, Moseley says. But most of what was shipped under the Black Sea Initiative was corn, not wheat. The main thing about the grain deal, he adds, is how it affected international grain marketsand not the flow of Ukrainian grain itself.

“It is important that the grain enters the market. More grain on the market, plus a decrease in fears, plays to lower prices, which benefits everyone. But especially poorer countries that are net grain importers and suffer from food insecurity,” the expert is sure.

In the long term, just renewing the agreement is not enough

The World Food Program reports that 382 million people in 82 countries are currently severely food insecure, describing the current situation as “a global hunger crisis of unprecedented proportions.” If the agreement is extended, it will be possible to prevent significant price increases and additional pressure on regions of the world that are vulnerable to food security.

Famine in Somalia
According to the UN, 382 million people in 82 countries are experiencing acute food insecurityPhoto: Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP/dpa/picture alliance

Lehmann is confident that the extension of the grain deal is responsible the interests of Russia. Moseley agrees, saying that Moscow may see this as a way to win over its allies in Africa.

However, he stresses that while the extension of the agreement is beneficial in the short term, it does not solve the structural problem that too many poor countries depend on a small number of suppliers to a narrow range of crops: wheat, corn and rice. “In the long term, we need a more sustainable global food system with a wider variety of grains from a wider variety of sources,” the UN expert stressed.

See also:

Grain began to be exported from Ukraine

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