Russia, Ukraine war: Countries extend grain deal

The deal allows grain to flow from Ukraine to countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, where hunger is a growing threat.

KYIV, Ukraine – An unprecedented wartime agreement allows grain to flow from Ukraine to countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, where hunger is a growing threat and high food prices are rising. pushing many people into poverty was extended just before the expiration date, officials said Saturday.

The United Nations and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the extension, but did not confirm how long it would last. The United Nations, Turkey and Ukraine have pushed for 120 days, while Russia has said it is ready to agree to 60 days.

Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov tweeted on Saturday that the deal would be in effect for a longer period, four months. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Russian news agency Tass that Moscow “agreed to extend the agreement for 60 days.”

This is the second extension of separate agreements that Ukraine and Russia have signed with the United Nations and Turkey to allow the transfer of food out of the Black Sea region after Russia invaded the neighboring country more than a year ago.

The warring nations are all suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil, and other affordable food products that developing nations depend on.

Russia has complained that its fertilizer shipments – which its agreements with Turkey and the United Nations are said to facilitate – do not reach the global market, which is a problem for Russia. Moscow since the agreement first went into effect in August. However, it was extended in November for another four months.

Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said in a statement that 25 million tons (about 28 million tons) of grain and food had been shipped to 45 countries under the initiative, helping to reduce global and stable food prices. market.

“We remain strongly committed to both agreements and we urge all parties to redouble their efforts to fully implement them,” Dujarric said.

The war in Ukraine that sent food prices to record highs last year and contributed to the global food crisis is also linked to the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate factors. like a drought.

Disruptions in the transportation of grains essential to staple diets in places like Egypt, Lebanon and Nigeria have exacerbated economic challenges and contributed to pushing millions more people into poverty or hunger. food insecurity. People in developing countries spend more money on basic things like food.

According to the United Nations World Food Program, the crisis leaves about 345 million people facing food insecurity.

Food prices have fallen for 11 straight months, but food was already expensive before the war due to droughts from the Americas to the Middle East – the worst in the Horn of Africa, with thousands dying in Somalia. Poorer countries that depend on imported food denominated in dollars are spending more as their currencies weaken.

The deal has also faced setbacks since it was mediated by the United Nations and Turkey: Russia briefly withdrew in November before rejoining and renewing the deal. Over the past few months, checks to make sure ships are only carrying grain and not weapons have slowed.

That has contributed to a backlog of cargo in ships waiting in Turkish waters and a recent drop in grain out of Ukraine.

Ukraine and some US officials have blamed Russia for the slowdown, which it denies.

While fertilizers struggled, Russia exported large quantities of wheat after a record crop. Figures from financial data provider Refinitiv show that Russia’s wheat exports more than doubled to 3.8 million tonnes in January from a year earlier, before the invasion.

According to Refinitiv, Russian wheat shipments reached or near record highs in November, December and January, up 24% from the same period three months earlier. It is estimated that Russia will export 44 million tons of wheat by 2022-2023.

Andrew Wilks in Istanbul, Elise Morton in London and Julie Walker in New York contributed to this report. Russia, Ukraine war: Countries extend grain deal

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