Sun. May 19th, 2024


Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday promised heads of African states that he would ensure that Africa does not face food insecurity as a result of the end of the Black Sea grain agreement. Putin said he would do this by replacing Ukrainian grain with Russian grain.

“We understand the importance of an uninterrupted supply of foodstuffs to African countries. It is essential for social and economic development and for maintaining political stability,” Putin said while addressing the plenary session of the Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg.

“Therefore, we have always paid — and will continue to pay — special attention to supplying our African friends with wheat, barley, maize and other grain crops, including as humanitarian aid.”

Last week, Russia withdrew from the Black Sea grain deal, under which it allowed the passage of ships from Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea carrying food grain shipments.

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Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russia would suspend the Black Sea Grain Initiative until its demands to get its own food and fertilizer to the world are met. While Russia has complained that restrictions on shipping and insurance have hampered its agricultural exports, it has shipped record amounts of wheat.

“When the part of the Black Sea deal related to Russia is implemented, Russia will immediately return to the implementation of the deal,” Peskov said.

Addressing African leaders on Thursday, Putin said, “This is a paradoxical situation. On the one hand, western countries are obstructing supplies of our grain and fertilizers, while on the other hand, I will say it plainly, they hypocritically blame us for the current crisis in the world food market.”

He said Russia would, over the next three to four months, supply Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, Central African Republic and Eritrea with 25 to 50 tons of free grains. Putin said he was confident that Russia could replace Ukrainian grain exports to Africa, which have stopped since the end of the Black Sea grain deal.

“Our country can replace Ukrainian grain both commercially and as free aid to the poorest countries in Africa, especially as we are again expecting a record harvest this year,” Putin said.

The Black Sea grain deal last year was a crucial breakthrough, brokered by Turkey and the United Nations, that allowed Ukraine to ship 32.8 million metric tons of grain. More than half of this export went to developing nations around the world that had been cut off during Russia’s invasion.

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“(Under the Black Sea agreement), the World Food Program has shipped more than 725,000 tons (of food grains) to support humanitarian operations, relieving hunger in some of the hardest-hit corners of the world, including Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa and Yemen,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said on Monday.

The initiative is credited with helping lower the soaring prices of wheat, vegetable oil and other food commodities. Ukraine and Russia are both major global suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other affordable food products that developing nations rely on.

Click to play video: 'Black Sea grain deal: Russia says new deal with Turkey possible if demands met'

Black Sea grain deal: Russia says new deal with Turkey possible if demands met

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said last week that the deal must continue and could operate without Russian participation.

While the impact is expected to be felt in several developing countries in Africa and western Asia, United Nations Black Sea Initiative Joint Coordination Centre data shows that food shipments from the Black Sea were meant for destinations across the world.

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China (eight million metric tons), Spain (six million metric tons), Turkiye (3.2 million tons) and Italy (2.1 million tons) have been the biggest recipients of cargo from Black Sea ports since the deal was struck.

The implications will be felt all over the world, and an Oxfam Canada spokesperson told Global News last week that they were concerned about the ripple effects the suspension of the deal could have on food prices, food donation drives and inequity in Canada. 

It could also offer an opportunity to create more breadbaskets around the world, the spokesperson said. Earlier this month, the UN released its annual State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report, which said that approximately 725 million people faced chronic hunger in 2022. This figure is up from 613 million in 2019.

The war in Ukraine has caused the UN to update its projections on world hunger.

“Updated projections show that almost 600 million people will be chronically undernourished in 2030 … this is about 119 million more undernourished people than in a scenario in which neither the pandemic nor the war in Ukraine had occurred, and around 23 million more than in a scenario in which the war had not happened,” the report said.

— with files from The Associated Press and Reuters

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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