Nduduzo Tshuma in St Petersburg, Russia
RUSSIA’S trade with African countries in agricultural products increased by 10 percent to US$6.7 billion, and has already demonstrated record growth from January-June of this year increasing by 60 percent, the country’s President Vladmir Putin said on Thursday.
The growth, President Putin said, is despite the illegal sanctions imposed by the West on Russia’s exports, which constitute a serious impediment for exporting Russian food, complicating transport, logistics, insurance and bank transactions.
Speaking during a plenary session of the Russia–Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum at the Second Russia-Africa Summit here on Thursday, President Putin said his government, businesses and the public are interested in further deepening multifaceted trade, investment and humanitarian ties with the continent to promote stable growth and prosperity.
“We are aware of the importance of uninterrupted supply of food products to African countries. This is vital for their socioeconomic development and for maintaining political stability. This is why we have always given and will continue to give special attention to supplying wheat, barley, corn and other grain crops to our African friends, including as part of humanitarian aid provided under the UN World Food Programme,” said President Putin.
“Friends, the numbers speak for themselves: last year Russia’s trade with African countries in agricultural products increased by 10 percent to $6.7 billion, and has already demonstrated record growth in January-June of this year by increasing by 60 percent. Russia exported 11.5 million tonnes of grain to Africa in 2022, and almost 10 million tonnes in the first six months of 2023. All this has been taking place despite the illegal sanctions imposed on our exports, which constitute a serious impediment for exporting Russian food, complicating transport, logistics, insurance and bank transactions.”
President Putin slammed the West’s hypocrisy for seeking to block Russia’s grain and fertiliser exports, while at the same time blaming the country for the current crisis on the global food market.
“This is outright hypocrisy. We saw this approach in all clarity with the so-called grain deal. Brokered with the participation of the UN Secretariat, it was initially designed to promote global food security, mitigate the threat of hunger and help the poorest countries, including in Africa.
“However, in almost a year since this so-called deal was concluded, a total of 32.8 million tonnes were exported from Ukraine, of which over 70 percent ended up in high-income and above-average income countries, including primarily the European Union, while I would like to draw your attention to the fact that countries like Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia and several others received less than 3 percent of this total, or under 1 million tonnes,” said President Putin.
He said Russia had agreed to take part in the deal partly because it contained commitments to lift the illegitimate obstacles for supplying our grain and fertilisers to the global market.
“However, nothing of what was agreed upon or what we were promised materialised – none of the conditions related to lifting the sanctions against the exports of Russian grain and fertilisers to the global markets have been fulfilled. Not a single one of them,” said President Putin.
“We even faced obstacles when trying to deliver mineral fertilisers to the poorest countries that need them for free, as we have just discussed during the meeting with the leadership of the African Union. We managed to send only two shipments – just 20,000 tonnes to Malawi and 34,000 tonnes to Kenya, of the 262,000 tonnes of these fertilisers blocked in European ports. All the rest remained in the hands of the Europeans, even though this initiative was purely humanitarian in nature, which means that it should not have been exposed to any sanctions, as a matter of principle.”
Against this background President Putin said Russia to extend the grain deal.
“As I have already said, Russia can well fill in the gap left by the withdrawal of the Ukrainian grain from the global market, either by selling its grain or by transferring it for free to the neediest countries in Africa, especially considering that this year we once again expect to have a record-high harvest.
To be more specific, let me say that in the next three to four months, we will be ready to provide, free of charge, a supply of 25,000–50,000 tonnes of grain each to Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, the Central African Republic and Eritrea, delivered at no cost,” said President Putin.
“A few more figures will probably be of interest. Ukraine produced about 55 million tonnes of grain in the past agricultural year. Exports amounted to 47 million tonnes: quite a lot, including 17 million tonnes of wheat. And Russia, colleagues, harvested 156 million tonnes of grain last year. It exported 60 million tonnes, of which 48 million tonnes was wheat.
“…Our country will continue to support states and regions in need, including with its humanitarian supplies. We are seeking to actively participate in the formation of a more equitable system for the distribution of resources and are doing our utmost to prevent a global food crisis.”
Meanwhile, briefing a delegation of African journalists during a tour of the PhosAgro plant in PhosAgro’s new plant in Volkhov, Leningrad Region on Wednesday, Russian Fertilizer Producers Association president Mr Andrey Guryev said in 2022, Russia produced 55 million tonnes of mineral fertilizers by gross weight.
Over the past 10 years, Mr Guryev said, the production of mineral fertilisers in the country has increased by 40%. During this time, Russia has been responsible for one third of the total increase in the global production of mineral fertilizers (15 million tonnes), overtaking the United States and India to become the No. 2 producer in the world (after China).
“This rapid growth is the result of large-scale investments – exceeding RUB 1.8 trillion over 10 years – to develop the industry. Another RUB 2 trillion in investments have already been announced for the next five years.
“Today, more than 100 grades of mineral fertilizers and ameliorants are produced in Russia. With an 18% share of exports, Russia is the world’s largest exporter of mineral fertilizers,” said Mr Guryev.
“Some 1.5 billion people on the planet consume food grown using Russian fertilizers. Since 2008, exports of mineral fertilizers have increased by 60%, amounting to USD 19.3 billion last year. Russian products are in demand in more than 100 countries, with 70% of fertilizer exports last year shipped to friendly developing countries.”
Turning to Africa, Mr Guryev said over the past five years, the total supply of Russian fertilizers to the continent has doubled, exceeding 1.6 million tonnes in 2022. At present, about 10% of the mineral fertilizers being used on the continent are produced in Russia. The main consumers are South Africa, Morocco, Senegal, Tanzania and Côte d’Ivoire.
He said Russian manufacturers export all the main types of fertilizers: nitrogen-based (ammonium nitrate, urea), phosphorus (monoammonium phosphate) and a wide range of complex NPK fertilizers. The largest Russian suppliers to African countries are PhosAgro (with a 30% share) and EuroChem (25%).
Mr Guryev said country’s fertiliser exporters have not been spared of the adverse effects of sanctions.
“Russian fertiliser producers continue to face multiple increases in logistics costs, the withdrawal of international container lines from the Russian market, refusal of shipping companies to provide vessels, refusal of insurers to insure shipments and restrictions on the supply of technology and equipment to Russia. Western banks limit the ability of Russian fertilizer producers to receive and transfer funds through their infrastructure, resulting in additional costs and longer payment terms,” he said.
However, Mr Guryev said through joint efforts, Africa and Russia have been able to prevent the destruction of their long-standing close economic and friendship ties as evidenced by the growth of Russian fertilizer supplies to African countries.
“Our task is to work together to further develop our historically close ties for the sake of food security for future generations,” he said