The grain agreement, a “beacon of hope” against global food insecurity


Russia and Ukraine on Friday signed a separate deal with Turkey and the United Nations that clears the way to export millions of tons of urgently needed Ukrainian grain, as well as Russian grain and fertilizer, ending a wartime standoff. that had threatened world food security.

The deal will allow Ukraine, one of the world’s largest breadbaskets, to export 22 million tons of grain and other agricultural products that have been stuck in Black Sea ports due to Russia’s invasion. The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has defined it as “a beacon of hope” for millions of hungry people who have faced huge increases in the cost of food. “You have overcome obstacles and set aside differences to pave the way for an initiative that will serve the common interests of all”, he assured.

“An agreement that allows grain to leave Black Sea ports will save the lives of people around the world who are struggling to feed their families,” Red Cross Director General Robert Mardini said. , who has pointed out that in the last six months the prices of basic products have increased by 187% in Sudan, 86% in Syria, 60% in Yemen and 54% in Ethiopia. As we say, the Russian Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, and the Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister, Oleksandr Kubrakov, have signed separate and identical agreements with Guterres and the Turkish Defense Minister, Hulusi Akar, in a ceremony that was attended by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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Alexis Rodriguez-Rata

“An unprecedented pact between two parties involved in a bloody conflict”

Guterres has also described the agreement as an unprecedented pact between two parties involved in a bloody conflict. For his part, Erdogan has said that he hopes the initiative will be “a new turning point that revives hopes for peace.”

Likewise, the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom have immediately welcomed the agreements. “This is a fundamental step in efforts to overcome global food insecurity caused by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” said the EU’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Josep Borrell. “Its success will depend on the swift implementation, and in good faith, of today’s agreement,” he added.

For her part, UK Foreign Minister Liz Truss has stated that she applauds Turkey and the UN for negotiating the pact. “We will be vigilant to make sure Russia’s actions match her words,” Truss said. “To allow a lasting return to global security and economic stability, Vladimir Putin must end the war and withdraw from Ukraine,” she concluded.

The Secretary General of the UN, António Guterres, and the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, attend the signing of the agreement in Istanbul on July 22

UN Secretary-General António Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attend the signing of the agreement in Istanbul


Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but the Russian invasion and naval blockade of its ports have halted shipments. Some Ukrainian grain is transported across Europe by rail, road and river, but prices for vital staples like wheat and barley have soared during nearly five months of war. Although international sanctions against Russia have not targeted food exports, the war has disrupted shipments of Russian goods because shipping and insurance companies did not want to deal with Russia.

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Russian soldiers guard an area next to a field of wheat as foreign journalists work in the Zaporizhzhia region in an area under Russian military control, southeastern Ukraine, Tuesday, June 14, 2022. The Zaporizhzhia region has been under control of the Russian forces since the early days of the Russian military action in Ukraine.  This photo was taken during a trip organized by the Russian Ministry of Defense.  (AP Photo)

The plan will help stabilize world food prices.”

Anthony GuterresUN Secretary General

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said the plan, known as the “Black Sea Initiative,” opens a path for significant volumes of commercial food exports from three key Ukrainian ports: Odessa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny. “It will help stabilize world food prices, which were already at record levels even before the war, a real nightmare for developing countries,” he added.

Among other things, the agreement provides for the safe passage of ships through heavily mined waters. A coordination center will be established in Istanbul, with UN, Turkish, Russian and Ukrainian officials, to monitor the ships and run the process through specific corridors. Likewise, the ships will undergo inspections to ensure that they do not carry weapons.

In parallel, a senior UN official has explained that cargo ships will use “safe channels” identified by Ukraine as they sail in and out of ports and will be guided by Ukrainian sailors. The plan does not envisage further mine clearance. territorial waters of Ukraine, which would have delayed the process.

In addition, military ships will not be used as escorts, but a minesweeper may be on standby in case the safe channels “need an occasional check,” the official added. Ships entering Ukrainian ports will be examined by inspection teams that will include representatives of all parties involved to ensure that there are no weapons on board. Grain unloading on ships will also be monitored.

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Detail image of the state of the wheat.

The pact establishes that there will be no attacks against any of the ships

A key element of the deal is an agreement by Russia and Ukraine that there will be no attacks on either ship, according to the same official. According to himself, it will take a few weeks before the agreement fully works, and he has also stated that Ukraine needs about 10 days to have the ports ready and also needs time to “identify and be clear about those safe corridors”. Likewise, an initial movement of ships could be possible before that date, although “only to show that they can work”.

The goal is to export about 5 million tons of grain per month to empty Ukraine’s silos in time for the new harvest, according to the UN official. The agreement is for a renewable period of 120 days.

Guterres first raised the critical need to return Ukraine’s agricultural output and Russia’s grain and fertilizers to world markets in late April during meetings with Putin in Moscow and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv. He also proposed a global deal in early June amid fears the war was jeopardizing food supplies for many developing nations and could worsen hunger for as many as 181 million people.

The Ocean Legend arrives from Ukraine loaded with cereals

The Ocean Legend, from the Ukraine, arrived a few days ago at the Port of Tarragona loaded with cereals


For his part, Peter Meyer, head of grain and oilseed analysis at S&P Global Platts, has pointed out that the agreement does not “mean that the global supply crisis is over”. Traders have been anticipating a deal for the past few weeks, he has said, so its effect may already have manifested itself in prices, meaning they may not fall sharply. And the deal covers the 2021 harvest.

There is still considerable uncertainty about Ukrainian production this year and even next, Meyer has said. Before the deal, Russian and Ukrainian officials blamed each other for blocked grain shipments.

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Xavier Mas de Xaxàs

FILE- Malian women sift wheat in a field near Segou, central Mali, Jan. 22, 2013. In 2022, Families across Africa are paying about 45% more for wheat flour as Russia's war in Ukraine blocks exports from the Black Sea. Some countries like Somalia get more than 90% of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine.  That's forcing many people to substitute wheat for other grains.  But the United Nations is warning that the price hikes are coming as many parts of Africa are facing drought and hunger.  (AP Photo/Jerome Delay, File)

The agreement “does not mean that the global supply crisis is over”

Ukraine argued that Russia’s port blockade and missile launches from the Black Sea made any safe shipment impossible. Ukrainian authorities also accused Russia of stealing grain from eastern Ukraine and deliberately bombing Ukrainian fields to set them on fire.

For his part, Volodymyr Sidenko, an expert at the Kyiv-based Razumkov Center think tank, said Ukraine did not seem to raise the issue of grain theft from the occupied territories in the negotiations.

“Apparently, it was part of a deal: Kyiv does not raise the issue of stolen grain, and Moscow does not insist on controlling Ukrainian ships. Kyiv and Moscow have been forced to make a deal and compromise on many differences”, he has said.

The agreement reached today is also important for Russia’s geopolitical relations, Sidenko noted. “Russia decided not to fuel a new crisis in Africa and provoke famine and government changes there,” he has said. “The African Union asked Putin to quickly alleviate the grain supply crisis and put pressure on the Kremlin, which has its interests in Africa,” he concluded.

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