On July 17, nearly a year after the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI) was signed in Turkey, Russia declined to renew the agreement that allows Ukraine to export agricultural goods globally.
As the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says this initiative has been ‘a beacon of hope in a world that desperately needs it’.
Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a fifth of the world’s barley came from Ukraine as well as a sixth of maize and an eighth of wheat.
After Russia’s invasion, global food prices spiked to record levels and endangered food imports for many countries.
The BSGI aimed to re-establish a vital route for agricultural exports from Ukraine and lower global food prices.
Despite many challenges, it achieved this.
Since August 2022, Ukraine has exported almost 33 million tonnes of grains and food to 45 countries. This was instrumental in reducing global food prices.
Over half of the grain, including two-thirds of wheat, went to developing countries.
The BSGI also ensured continued access to grain for the World Food Programme (WFP). This year, Ukraine supplied 80 percent of the wheat procured for humanitarian operations in food-insecure countries.
Without the Black Sea route, the WFP has to get its grain elsewhere at higher prices and with a longer wait.
Russia’s withdrawal from the BSGI was taken despite the UN Secretary General’s renewed proposals to address its concerns.
Russia claims that its own agricultural exports were not sufficiently facilitated, but available trade data shows that its agricultural exports are thriving.
Russia also benefited from the agreement with the UN on fertiliser exports parallel to the BSGI.
The UN has worked relentlessly to clarify regulatory frameworks and find dedicated solutions across banking and insurance sectors in close collaboration with the EU and its partners.
The EU has ensured that our sanctions have no impact on global food security. There are no sanctions on Russian export of food and fertiliser to third countries.
The EU has provided extensive guidance to economic operators and worked with the UN to allow related payments.
Despite these facts, Russia’s pull-out from the BSGI endangers the global food supply.
Russia also started to destroy Ukraine’s grain storage facilities and port infrastructure with targeted attacks.
Consequently, wholesale wheat and maize prices saw their biggest surge since the start of Russia’s war.
The increased food price volatility is likely to persist as long as Russia puts the global food supply under deliberate stress, aggravating the cost-of-living crisis—most acutely for food-insecure people in import-dependent countries. This should be resolutely condemned.
Russia is now approaching vulnerable countries, notably in Africa, with bilateral offers of limited grain shipments, pretending to solve a problem it created itself. This is a cynical policy of deliberately using food as a weapon.
The EU will continue to support the UN and Türkiye efforts to resume the BSGI.
Second, we continue to strengthen our “Solidarity Lanes” as alternative routes for Ukrainian agricultural exports to reach global markets.
These lanes have allowed the export of more than 41 million tonnes of Ukraine’s agricultural goods so far and we are increasing this to mitigate the consequences of Russia’s termination of the BSGI.
Third, we increased our financial support to countries and people most in need, providing €18 billion to address food security until 2024.
We call on the international community and all countries to step up their assistance in support of global food security.
Along with the African Union, we ask all our partners to urge Russia to return to negotiations and refrain from targeting Ukraine’s agricultural infrastructure.
With a clear and unified voice, we can get Russia to resume its participation in the BSGI. The world has a shared interest in responsible stewardship of global food security. We owe it to the people most in need.