UN Security Council appeals for renewal of Black Sea grain initiative

Price of wheat has risen 50 percent since 2021

A bulk carrier leaves the Black Sea port of Chornomorsk with wheat for Ethiopia. Reuters
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As the November 19 expiration date for the Black Sea grain initiative approaches, UN Security Council members have called for continued support of the measure as the world continues to face the effects of a food crisis.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US ambassador to the UN, appealed on Wednesday to council members to support and secure an extension of the initiative, which was signed in July.

The agreement has helped to stabilise food markets, she said, with reports that prices have fallen to levels not seen since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began in February.

“Two thirds of the wheat exported under the initiative has gone to the Global South, but the deadline for renewing the deal is fast approaching,” she added.

“Russia must extend this essential life-saving arrangement. Russia must allow these ships to keep feeding the world and I call on our fellow council members to make the same calls with the same urgency to keep the deal alive.”

The deal guarantees safe passage for Ukrainian grain exports through certain Black Sea ports as the war with Russia continues.

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The deal, first struck between Russia and Ukraine via UN and Turkish mediation, will be automatically renewed unless one of the parties objects.

The price of wheat has risen 50 per cent since 2021 but stabilised partly because of the Black Sea grain initiative.

UN figures show that nearly 500 ships carrying more than 10 million metric tonnes of grain and other food items have departed under the initiative to the world's poorest countries.

The UAE's UN envoy, Lana Nusseibeh, echoed the US ambassador's call and urged stakeholders to reach a solution that ensures the extension of the agreement.

“In addition to the export of grains, the supply of ammonia and fertilisers which are crucial to ensure adequate crop yields for next year's harvest are also a priority,” Ms Nusseibeh said.

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“As the secretary general has said, we cannot let this year's crisis of affordability become next year's crisis of availability.”

She also called on council members to support any efforts or talks and to focus on measures that can bring Russia and Ukraine together rather than “further apart”.

Taking a harder line, Nicolas de Riviere, France's UN ambassador, accused Moscow of “instrumentalising food insecurity and malnutrition”.

“After having, first of all, suspended for several days its participation in the Black Sea grain initiative, Russia is now looking to use its agreement to the renewal of those cards as a bargaining chip,” Mr de Riviere said. “This blackmail is unacceptable.”

Moscow has been holding out on renewing the agreement due to what it perceives as unfair implementation due to sanctions on Russian agricultural exports. Russia suspended the deal for four days in October.

Russia has asked for unhindered access to world markets for its own food and fertiliser exports in return for agreeing to continue the Black Sea export deal.

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It complained that the deal was allowing Ukrainian grain past its navy on the Black Sea while its own grain and fertiliser exports were not given equal access to world markets.

UN and Russian officials met on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Bali, Indonesia.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters on Tuesday that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had given Moscow written assurances that “all the economic operators that participate in Russian fertiliser, grain and supply chains” would not face sanctions for trading in Russian grain.

This would allow Russian ships to visit European ports and for the Russian agricultural bank to “work fully”, Mr Lavrov said.

Rosemary Di Carlo, the UN undersecretary general for political affairs, told council members on Wednesday that Mr Guterres has continued his engagement with all parties in support of the renewal and full implementation of the initiative.

Mr Guterres, she added, has also emphasised his commitment to removing remaining obstacles to Russian food and fertiliser exports.

“These products are not under international sanctions but suffer in direct impacts,” said Ms Di Carlo.

Updated: November 16, 2022, 11:19 PM
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