UN working to expand Black Sea grain deal

28 October 20223 min reading

With the Black Sea grain deal ending in late November and its renewal uncertain, the price of some commodities, such as wheat and maize, is rising again. Russia, Ukraine and brokers Türkiye and the U.N. – are currently negotiating a possible extension and expansion beyond its Nov. 19 deadline.

The renewal of the Turkey and UN-backed initiative is vital to continuing to drive global food prices down and ensuring food security worldwide. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and his team are working to expand and extend for a year the deal allowing Ukrainian Black Sea grain exports, which could expire in late November. “We’re trying to remove the uncertainty to ensure that people are publicly saying that, ‘Yes, this will be extended a further year,’ but we’re not there yet,” said U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric, adding that U.N. officials are also working to facilitate Russian grain and fertilizer exports.

Facilitating Russia’s food and fertilizer shipments is a central aspect of a package deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey on July 22 that also restarted Ukraine’s Black Sea grain and fertilizer shipments. Russia has criticized the deal, complaining that its exports were still hindered. Moscow could object to extending the pact allowing Ukraine’s exports beyond late November. The deal included ammonia, a key ingredient in nitrate fertilizer. A pipeline transporting ammonia from Russia’s Volga region to Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Pivdennyi was shut down when Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. The United Nations is now trying to broker a resumption of those ammonia exports.

Ukraine and Russia are both key global grain and fertilizer exporters. The United Nations said the agreement on Russian and Ukrainian exports is needed to tackle a global food crisis that it said had been worsened by Russia’s war in Ukraine, pushing 47 million people into “acute hunger.” The deal has helped to make grain more available and eased pressure on food prices. This has in turn helped to improve global access to food, particularly for the poorest and most vulnerable.

However, the deal is under strain as a surge in the number of cargo ships has caused a backlog aiming to cross the Black Sea. The number of vessels waiting to sail to or from Ukrainian ports reached a record high of 150, prompting growing frustration in Kyiv. “There are currently over 150 vessels waiting around Istanbul to move and these delays have the potential to cause disruptions to the supply chain and port operations,” said Ismini Palla, U.N. spokesperson for the Black Sea Grain Initiative. 

Separately, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow has asked the U.N. for data on the destination and end-consumers for Ukrainian grain exports, saying that “corrections” to a deal to unblock shipments from Black Sea ports would depend on this information. Ukraine has so far exported 8.5 million metric tons of grain and other foodstuffs aboard 379 outbound voyages under the deal.

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