| 3 December 2023, Sunday |

Black Sea grain deal expires after Russia quits

A deal allowing the safe Black Sea export of Ukraine’s grain for the past year expired on Monday after Russia quit and warned it could not guarantee the safety of ships in a move the United Nations said would “strike a blow to people in need everywhere.”

Moscow suggested that if demands to improve exports of its own grain and fertilizer were met it would consider resurrecting the Black Sea agreement. However, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that a U.N. pact that aimed to help facilitate Russia’s shipments over the past year was also terminated.

“Only upon receipt of concrete results, and not promises and assurances, will Russia be ready to consider restoring the deal,” said Russia’s foreign ministry.

Russia told the U.N. shipping agency – the International Maritime Organization (IMO) – that its “guarantees for the safety of navigation” had been revoked and that “proactive necessary actions and response measures to neutralize threats posed by the Kiev regime in the area will be taken.”

U.S. wheat and corn futures slumped after earlier hitting two-week highs on Russia’s announcement. Analysts said there are still expectations the grain deal may be renewed and the markets were well aware of the risk for it to expire.

The Black Sea deal was brokered by the U.N. and Turkey in July last year to combat a global food crisis worsened by Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine and Russia are among the world’s top grain exporters.

Russia has complained that under the deal not enough grain has reached poor countries. But the U.N. argued the arrangement has benefited those states by helping lower food prices more than 20% globally.

“Hundreds of millions of people face hunger and consumers are confronting a global cost-of-living crisis. They will pay the price,” Guterres said of Russia’s decision, adding that the U.N. would continue trying to get unimpeded access to global markets for food and fertilizers from Ukraine and Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he spoke with Guterres on Monday about trying to renew Black Sea shipments.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he believed Putin wants the deal to continue and would discuss with him it when they meet in person in August.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Russia of a “continued weaponization of food” that harms millions of vulnerable people around the world.

  • Reuters