Russia threatens to pull out of the Black Sea grain deal with Ukraine
Negotiators have about 24 hours to salvage a pact that will allow Ukraine to export millions of tons of grain and help ease a global food crisis despite the war it is waging with Russia.
The contract has already been extended twice. But Russia has threatened to withdraw from the deal by May 18 unless a list of its demands is met. This includes lifting some restrictions on its agricultural exports.
The Kyiv-Moscow agreement allows Ukraine to safely use its Black Sea ports for cargo transport despite the onshore war. It was brokered by the United Nations and Turkey last year. Ukraine is a major supplier of wheat, barley, vegetable oil and other foodstuffs to Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia.
The United Nations World Food Program said the Russian invasion of Ukraine has contributed to “severe food insecurity” for over a quarter billion people worldwide. The so-called Black Sea Grains Initiative has allowed almost 25 million tons of food exports from Ukraine to reach world markets, according to an estimate by Martin Griffths, UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief. The World Food Program, he said, gets much of the wheat for its global humanitarian aid from Ukraine.
Since the Grains Agreement was signed in July 2022, prices for commonly traded global food commodities have fallen, according to the FAO Food Price Index, which tracks monthly changes in international prices.
“If the grain deal gets canceled again when we’re already in a pretty tight spot, that’s just one more thing the world doesn’t need that prices could go up,” said William Osnato, a senior said research analyst at the agricultural data and analytics firm Gro Intelligence to the Associated Press.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a briefing that Russia will not engage in “hypothetical discussions” about what Russia will do when the Black Sea Grains Agreement expires on Thursday.