Russia cancels Ukraine grain export deal, raising fears for countries battling hunger
Harvesters bring in the crop in a wheat field in the village of Zghurivka, Ukraine, on Aug. 9, 2022. With Russia canceling a key export agreement, Ukraine's grains won't be going anywhere now. | AP

Russia suspended a deal allowing war-torn Ukraine to export grain to countries struggling with hunger and poverty Monday, calling for its own demands on food and fertilizer shipments to be met.

The agreement, brokered last summer by the United Nations and Turkey, cleared the way for grain to be exported through the Black Sea to Africa, the Middle East, and Asia after Russia’s invasion worsened the global food crisis.

Its suspension came just hours after Moscow accused of Ukraine of attacking the Crimean Bridge again. Two people were killed and their daughter was wounded in what Russia called a “terror attack” on the major artery for its troops fighting in Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the two events were not connected, adding: “In fact, the Black Sea agreements ceased to be valid today. Unfortunately, the part of these Black Sea agreements concerning Russia has not been implemented so far, so its effect is terminated.”

Russia and Ukraine are two of the world’s top agricultural producers and major suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil, and other affordable food products that developing nations rely on.

While Russian exports of food and fertilizer are not subject to the Western sanctions imposed after the invasion began in February 2022, Moscow has said that restrictions on payments, logistics, and insurance have created a barrier to shipments.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative has allowed three Ukrainian ports to export 36.2 million tons of grain and other food to the world since last August, according to the Joint Coordination Centre in Istanbul.

Russia has repeatedly complained that the deal largely benefits richer nations.

The World Food Programme regained a top supplier under the deal, allowing 725,000 metric tons of humanitarian food aid to leave Ukraine and reach countries on the brink of famine, including Ethiopia, Afghanistan, and Yemen.

The International Rescue Committee calls the grain deal a “lifeline for the 79 countries and 349 million people on the front lines of food insecurity.”

Losing millions of tons of food from Ukraine at a time when many countries are increasingly reliant on imported supplies because of conflict and drought “will result in inaccessibility and unavailability of food but also will increase prices and impact affordability for households,” said Shashwat Saraf, the group’s regional emergency director for East Africa.

Fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, conflict, economic crises, drought, and other climate factors also affect food scarcity.

Morning Star

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Ceren Sagir
Ceren Sagir

Ceren Sagir is a reporter and deputy news editor for Morning Star, the English-language socialist daily newspaper from Britain, and the UK representative for Halk TV, a Turkish nationwide TV channel.