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Time for world leaders to help restore grain deal



04 Aug 2023

Time for world leaders to help restore grain deal

Time for world leaders to help restore grain deal

One of the many unintended consequences of Russia’s action in Ukraine last year has been the conflict’s impact on the security and stability of global food supplies.

Before the invasion, Ukraine was the world’s largest exporter of sunflower oil, the fourth-largest exporter of corn, and the fifth-largest exporter of wheat. When the fighting broke out in February 2022, the future of Ukraine’s agricultural exports was placed in doubt. However, a Turkish-led diplomatic effort brokered the Black Sea Grain Initiative between Russia and Ukraine last summer. The deal, overseen by the UN Joint Coordination Center, allowed Ukrainian agricultural products to be exported to the world.

From the very beginning of the grain deal last year, there was a concern it would not last long. Less than 24 hours after signing the agreement in July 2022, Russia launched a cruise missile attack on the port at Odesa — one of the locations identified in the agreement as being allowed to ship Ukrainian grain. Even so, the deal finally got off the ground, and fears of a global food crisis were averted — at least temporarily.

However, earlier this month, Russia announced it was no longer participating in the initiative. This announcement was followed by a statement from the Russian Ministry of Defense, warning that “all vessels sailing in the waters of the Black Sea to Ukrainian ports will be regarded as potential carriers of military cargo,” and adding that countries operating such vessels will be considered to be involved in the conflict on the side of Ukraine. This has placed the global food supply in a precarious situation.

Since leaving the agreement, Russia has launched a series of targeted airstrikes against facilities involved in exporting Ukraine’s agricultural products to global markets. Photos and videos on social media show the destruction of grain storage sites in Ukrainian ports. So far, these attacks have destroyed more than 60,000 tons of grain. In the words of Barbara Woodward, the UK’s permanent representative to the UN, this “is enough to feed 270,000 people for a year or to double WFP (World Food Programme) shipment to both Sudan and Somalia.”

The Middle East and North Africa region, in particular, is dependent on Ukrainian grain. For example, before the war, 81 percent of Lebanon’s wheat imports came from Ukraine. For Qatar, the total was 64 percent. About half of Tunisian and Libyan wheat imports came from Ukraine, as did just over a quarter of Egypt’s.


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