During a meeting with African leaders in St. Petersburg on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a commitment to provide up to 50,000 tons of grain as humanitarian aid to six African countries at no cost.
“In the coming months, we will be able to ensure free supplies of 25,000 to 50,000 tons of grain to Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, Central African Republic and Eritrea,” he said in a speech opening the Russia-Africa summit.
The announcement comes after Russia last week halted a deal that allowed Ukrainian grain to move from Black Sea ports to countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
Both Russia and Ukraine are important global suppliers of barley, wheat, corn, sunflower oil and other food products that many developing countries rely on.
The export of these supplies was interrupted after Russia launched its full-scale invasion last year, sending food prices soaring and sparking concerns about food security and global hunger.
The now-collapsed Black Sea grain deal, brokered by the UN and Turkey in mid-2022, allowed nearly 33 million tons of Ukrainian grain to be exported despite the war.
Putin told the summit that Russia was expecting a record grain harvest this year and was ready to replace Ukrainian grain exports to Africa.
He also responded to Western criticism of Russia’s decision to quit the grain deal, saying that most of the grain that had been exported under the agreement had gone to high-income or above-average income countries, including states in the EU.
Putin also blamed Western sanctions imposed over the war in Ukraine for preventing Russia from providing free fertilizers to poor countries.
“A paradoxical picture is emerging. On the one hand, Western countries are obstructing supplies of our grain and fertilisers (via sanctions), while on the other they hypocritically blame us for the current crisis situation on the world food market,” said Putin.