Russia and Ukraine extend grain deal to help world’s poor
Kyiv, Ukraine — An unprecedented wartime deal that allows grain to flow from Ukraine to countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where hunger is a growing threat and high food prices are pushing more people in poverty has been extended, officials said on Saturday.
The extension was announced by the United Nations and by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but neither has confirmed how long the extension will last.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov tweeted that the deal had been extended for 120 days – the length desired by Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations. There was no immediate comment from Russia, which had wanted to renew for 60 days.
This is the second renewal of separate agreements Ukraine and Russia have signed with the United Nations and Turkey to allow food to leave the Black Sea region after Russia invaded its neighbor there. over a year old. The warring nations are the world’s two main suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other affordable foodstuffs that developing countries depend on.
Russia has complained that shipments of its fertilizers – also essential to the global food chain – are not reaching global markets, which has long been a problem under the deal that has come into effect. in August and was renewed for four more months in November.
The war in Ukraine pushed food prices to record highs last year and contributed to a global food crisis also linked to the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and climatic factors like drought. This disruption of grain shipments needed for staple foods in places like Egypt, Lebanon and Nigeria has exacerbated economic challenges and helped push millions more people into poverty or food insecurity. People in developing countries spend more of their money on basics like food.
Food prices have fallen for 11 straight months, but food was already expensive before the war due to droughts from the Americas to the Middle East – the most devastating in the Horn of Africa, with thousands killed in Somalia . Poorer countries that rely on imported food priced in dollars spend more as their currency weakens.
The crisis has left an estimated 345 million people facing food insecurity, according to the United Nations World Food Programme.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative has helped by allowing 24 million metric tons of grain to leave Ukrainian ports, with 55% of shipments going to developing countries, according to the UN.
The accords have also suffered setbacks since they were brokered by the UN and Turkey: Russia briefly withdrew in November before joining and extending the deal. In recent months, inspections to ensure ships are carrying only grain and not weapons have slowed.
This has contributed to backlogs of vessels waiting in Turkish waters and a recent drop in the amount of grain leaving Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials and some US officials have blamed Russia for the slowdowns, which the country denies.
While fertilizers were blocked, Russia exported huge quantities of wheat after a record harvest. Figures from financial data provider Refinitiv show Russian wheat exports more than doubled to 3.8 million tonnes in January from the same month a year ago, before the invasion.
According to Refinitiv, Russian wheat shipments hit or near record highs in November, December and January, rising 24% from the same three months a year earlier. He estimated that Russia will export 44 million tons of wheat in 2022-2023.
Andrew Wilks in Istanbul, Elise Morton in London and Julie Walker in New York contributed to this report.
See AP’s full coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine and the food crisis at https://apnews.com/hub/food-crisis.