ST.PETERSBURG: In a major development, Russian President Vladimir Putin has broken his silence on the suspension of the Black Sea grain deal, citing unfulfilled conditions for the initiative aimed at facilitating Russian exports of grain and fertilizer to global markets. Putin emphasized that the deal, brokered in Istanbul by the United Nations and Turkey, was intended to ensure food security for needy countries but failed to remove obstacles to Russian grain exports. The suspension of the deal had far-reaching consequences, particularly on African nations heavily dependent on grain imports, resulting in soaring wheat and cereal costs.
Russia and Ukraine, major wheat exporters via the Black Sea, hold significant influence over global grain supplies, particularly for African countries. However, due to the ongoing war, Moscow blocked the vital trade route, leading to severe food crises in African nations on the verge of starvation. The UN proposed a plan in April 2022, leading to the Istanbul grain deal on July 27. Nevertheless, Moscow terminated the deal on July 17, 2023, demanding the fulfillment of certain conditions before resuming exports. This decision caused panic worldwide, except in India, which possessed surplus wheat and rice stocks. African nations, wholly reliant on imports, faced uncertain futures.
According to a UN report, the Black Sea Grain Initiative facilitated the export of 36.2 million tons of food from Ukraine to the world, especially African nations. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has referred to the country as the “breadbasket of the world.” More than 79 countries heavily depend on grain exports, a situation worsened by climate change’s adverse effects on crops.
The suspension of the grain deal had immediate repercussions, with wheat prices surging by 11 percent globally. Prior to the war, Russia and Ukraine jointly accounted for a quarter of the world’s grain supply. The absence of a renewed deal was expected to lead to another spike in wheat prices, impacting markets worldwide.
In response to the crisis, Putin announced plans to provide free grain supplies to six African countries worst affected by the deal’s suspension. At the Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg, Putin pledged to send 25,000 to 50,000 tonnes of grain to Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, Central African Republic, and Eritrea. This move aimed to alleviate the immediate food crisis in these nations.
The situation underscores the delicate balance of global grain supply and highlights the pressing need for reliable and stable trade agreements to ensure food security for vulnerable nations. As African nations grapple with the aftermath of the suspended deal, the international community must come together to address the challenges posed by climate change and protect food supplies for those most in need.