Russia’s mind-boggling decision to prolong the Ukraine grain agreement is set to cause an explosion in global food security!
On Thursday May 18, 2023, workers were spotted loading grain at a grain port in Izmail, Ukraine, as the world struggled with a global food crisis exacerbated by the war that Russia had launched more than a year ago. The United Nations (U.N.) was in a race to extend a deal allowing for the shipment of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea to those regions affected by hunger. This was a highly anticipated decision since the war has driven up prices, making it difficult for families in countries like Somalia to predict if they can afford a meal the next day. Breaking news reports revealed that Russia agreed to a two-month extension of a previous agreement that had allowed Ukraine to ship grain through the Black Sea to various regions struggling with droughts and economic issues that continue to keep food prices high.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the breakthrough with excitement. Erdogan and the U.N. had brokered the deal with the warring sides in the summer of the previous year. However, it came along with a separate agreement to facilitate shipments of Russian food and fertilizer that Moscow insists hasn’t been applied. Losing Russia’s concerns would have been catastrophic; therefore, Turkey and the U.N. worked hard to ensure that all the conditions of the agreement were fulfilled so it could continue in the next period.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative has allowed over 30 million metric tons of Ukrainian grain to be shipped, with more than half going to developing nations. This extension is a win for countries in Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Asia that rely on Ukrainian wheat, barley, vegetable oil, and other affordable food products. However, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Kubrakov welcomed the extension but emphasized that the deal “has to work effectively” and blamed Russia for dragging its heels on joint inspections of ships by Russian, Ukrainian, U.N., and Turkish officials. Average daily inspections have steadily dropped from a peak of 10.6 in October to 3.2 last month. Shipments of Ukrainian grain also have declined in recent weeks, but Russia has denied slowing the work.
As drought takes its toll, the deal helped lower prices of food commodities like wheat over the last year. But that relief has not reached kitchen tables. Guterres said developed countries bring in Ukrainian corn for animal feed, while emerging economies receive “a majority” of grain for people to eat. He noted exports bring prices down for everyone.
While this announcement serves as a breakthrough in ensuring global food security, it is just one step, and the world must continue to work together to tackle issues that affect global food security.