Russia and Ukraine are yet to agree on an extension of the landmark deal to allow the export of grain from Black Sea ports, amid negotiations over the altering of some aspects of it.
In an interview in Istanbul yesterday, the UN coordinator for the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Amir Abdulla, revealed that Moscow and Kyiv are seeking to change some terms of the Turkish and UN-brokered agreement in order to extend it beyond its 19 November deadline.
According to Abdalla, Russia aims to reopen a pipeline to transport its ammonia fertilizer to Ukraine’s Odessa port for shipment as part of the new terms, while Ukraine seeks to extend the deal by more than a year and to have the Mykolayiv port included as the fourth port of export.
The issue comes amid fears that the intensified conflict between Russia and Ukraine could prompt the Kremlin to block the extension of the deal. “It’s far too important to the rest of the world for it to be allowed to falter,” Abdulla stressed. “So, I think it will be extended. But there are no guarantees.”
Following Russia’s launch of its invasion of Ukraine — one of the major producers of wheat in the world — there were widespread fears of a catastrophic shortage in the world’s grain supply and a global food crisis. The worldwide shortage of fertilizer and the prevention of its export was also a severe issue for agricultural industries.
The deal between Moscow and Kyiv — brokered by Ankara and the UN — in July alleviated much of that shortage, allowing over 7 million tons of crops to finally leave three of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.
That move succeeded in stabilizing food prices worldwide, according to the United States, so a failure to extend the agreement in just over a month is expected to have serious consequences. Renewing it for a longer period would help to improve conditions for Ukrainian farmers and ensure that they can export the next season’s crops.
Full negotiations over the extension are yet to start, but Abdalla clarified that the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths, and Secretary-General of the Conference on Trade and Development Rebeca Grynspan are scheduled to travel to Moscow tomorrow to discuss the grain deal.
“The real risk of this not being extended is not just to the two parties losing out on the benefits that they could get,” he said. “It’s the rest of the world and especially the poorer of the world.”