Ukraine says negotiators from Kyiv and Moscow have agreed to extend the United Nations and Turkish-brokered Black Sea grain export deal, a crucial step to alleviate the global food crisis caused by the conflict.
“The initiative for the safe transportation of agricultural products across the Black Sea has been extended for another 120 days,” Oleksandr Kubrakov, Ukraine’s Minister of Infrastructure, said on Thursday. He just made this decision in Istanbul. The United Nations and Turkey remain guarantors of this initiative.
The United Nations and Ankara initially brokered the deal in July to end Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s ports following Moscow’s all-out invasion of its neighbor in February. Ukraine is one of the world’s leading suppliers of grain and other agricultural products. Food security experts have warned that the shortages caused by the war will lead to a further rise in prices, with disastrous consequences for poor countries already affected by the impact of climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since the agreement entered into force on August 1, Kubrakov said, “Ukraine has exported more than 11 million tons of agricultural products to 38 countries around the world.” This is a large amount, but not enough. The world market cannot replace Ukrainian agricultural products in the near future. At the same time, it is possible to increase the amount of our food to the world.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed the agreement in a tweet on Thursday. Kubrakov said Ukraine had requested that the agreement be extended for at least a year and that it include ports in the Mykolaiv region in addition to the three ports in Odessa province that are part of the deal.
The grain deal will be extended by 120 days. 🇺🇦 with @tweet And the @tweet Make a major decision in the global fight against the food crisis. We are waiting for an official announcement from the partners – 🇹🇷 and 🇺🇳.
– Volodymyr Zelensky (@ZelenskyyUa) November 17, 2022
“I welcome the agreement by all parties to continue the Black Sea Grain Initiative to facilitate safe navigation for the export of grain, food and fertilizer from Ukraine,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
The announcements came as Russia unleashed its latest barrage of missile and “kamikaze” drone attacks on electricity infrastructure across Ukraine, in a bid to disrupt the country’s energy supply as winter approaches.
Denis Shmyhal, the Ukrainian Prime Minister, said at an investment conference in Kyiv that the strikes also targeted natural gas production facilities, without specifying the locations.
In a separate agreement with Russia, the UN began shipping fertilizers to African countries stuck in European ports since the start of the war. The UN worked with the US, UK and EU to create a general license to reassure private companies that there is a “blanket exemption” from sanctions on Russian food and fertilizer, and to encourage insurers to cover Russian-flagged vessels, a source from the UN. He said.
The source said Ukraine and Russia still need to agree to reopen an ammonia pipeline that runs through Ukraine. Ammonia, made from natural gas, is a feedstock for nitrogen fertilizers, but high gas prices have caused European fertilizer makers to cut production by 70 percent this year.
The source said small farmers in poor countries have been particularly hard hit by the “fertilizer crisis” as prices have more than doubled since 2019, raising fears that they will not be able to grow enough food for the next harvest.