A few days after Russia hastily withdrew from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, an agreement brokered in July 2022 that allows Ukraine to ship 10 million tons of grain from its ports across the Black Sea, the country has agreed to rejoin the diplomatic agreement, which was brokered by Turkey and the United Nations.
On October 30, Russia suspended its participation in the grain export deal, citing an alleged Ukrainian drone attack against ships of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet anchored off the coast of occupied Crimea. But on November 2, things were back on track.
“These cargo ships will be escorted by Ukrainian ships to avoid mined areas,” says Albert Goldson, executive director of the Cerulean Council, a New York-based think tank. “The Joint Coordination Center was established so that these ships entering and departing the Black Sea are inspected by Russian, Ukrainian, and Turkish authorities to ensure that the cargo ships are transporting non-military items.”
Goldson explains that, although the initiative has permitted the export of Ukrainian agricultural products, the quantity is dramatically lower than in prior years for several reasons. For one, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has resulted in the destruction of the country’s farming equipment and mining of farmlands, which has limited harvesting. Additionally, many Ukrainian workers who would otherwise be available to harvest are fighting at the frontlines. Explosive price increases in pesticides and fertilizer have also played a role
Antony Blinken U.S. Secretary of State, noted last week that in suspending the arrangement, Russia was “weaponizing food” in the war it started, directly impacting low- and middle-income countries and global food prices, and exacerbating already dire humanitarian crises and food insecurity.
Russia and Ukraine account for approximately 30% of global wheat and barley exports, 20% of maize, and more than 50% of all sunflower oil. While the duration of Russia’s suspension from the initiative last week was short, U.S. agribusiness may help fill the export gap with shipments to developing countries that depend on Ukrainian agricultural products, a process that may exacerbate the present-day domestic inflation in food prices.
The renewal of the grain initiative currently carries November 19, 2022 deadline.