Russia will allow Ukraine to export grain in U.N.-brokered bid to alleviate global food crisis
Ukraine is one of the world’s largest grain exporters, but the Russian invasion has blocked shipments, driving up food prices and driving millions into food insecurity around the world. The United Nations has warned that the shortage could push some countries to the brink of famine.
“The fact that two parties are at war, and are still at war, have been able to negotiate … these kinds of trade agreements to help the world, which is suffering from that war, I think is unprecedented,” said the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, before signing the agreement “It’s an extraordinary achievement.”
The plan represents a de facto ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia along designated shipping routes, and it represents a major breakthrough, at least symbolically. However, similar agreements have failed in the past amid mutual distrust and accusations of abuse, raising questions about the feasibility of the scheme.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended the signing ceremony in Istanbul.
“Today there is a lighthouse on the Black Sea,” Guterres said. “A beacon of hope, a beacon of possibility, a beacon of relief in a world that needs it more than ever.”
Addressing the Russian and Ukrainian representatives, he said that they “overcame obstacles and put aside differences to pave the way for an initiative that serves the common interests of all.”
Guterres added that the agreement opened the way for large volumes of commercial food exports from three major Ukrainian ports: Odessa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny. He added that the United Nations would establish a coordination center to monitor the implementation of the agreement.
The United Nations says Russia and Ukraine supply the world with more than half of the sunflower oil and about 30 percent of the world’s wheat.
The agreement will see Ukrainian test ships drive merchant ships through minefields in and out of Ukrainian ports, allowing shipments through the Black Sea and exit through the Bosphorus.
Operations will be overseen by a joint coordination committee in Istanbul, where UN and Turkish monitors will ensure that ships bound for Ukraine do not carry weapons.
UN officials said during a briefing before the official announcement of the deal that commercial ships would not have a military escort, but that a minesweeper could be deployed if there were any mine-related problems.
Both Ukraine and the United Nations agreed that it would not be necessary to remove mines from the area around Ukrainian ports, UN officials said, adding that the parties to the plan consulted with the commercial sector to ensure that insurance premiums would not be punitive.
The plan was expected to be implemented over the coming weeks, just in time to empty the Ukrainian silos of last year’s stock and make way for this year’s harvest.
With vast tracts of Ukrainian farmland and port infrastructure under Russian missile fire, it is It is still too early to know how much grain can be safely exported.
Prices of wheat and other agricultural commodities have retreated in recent weeks from their highs after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, as analysts attributed the decline to slowing economies, improved crop prospects and the prospect of a deal to unlock Ukraine’s grain exports.
The United Nations said price hikes shortly after the invasion pushed 71 million people worldwide into poverty.
Food inflation, including staples such as bread and cooking oil, threatens to destabilize some countries and exacerbate famine in some of the world’s poorest regions.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said earlier this year that eighteen of the world’s least developed countries import more than half of their wheat from Ukraine or Russia.