The agreement on Ukrainian grain exports, key to preventing the world food crisis from deepening, expires in exactly one month and although the intensification of the war creates obstacles to its compliance, it is expected that a new extension will finally be approved in the Negotiations starting next week.
Before the invasion that began almost a year ago, world prices for corn and wheat were rising due to lack of stocks, and these increases accelerated during the first four months of hostilities.
“This war started at a time when prices were already high, stock levels were at their lowest levels in the last 10 or 15 years, depending on the commodity. So in a sense, the war could not have happened.” It has come at a worse time, as Ukraine and Russia are important players in the markets,” Joseph Glauber, an analyst at the International Food Policy Research Institute, told Télam.
The negotiations to prolong the agreement between the UN, Ukraine, Russia and Turkey “will begin next week and then we will know the positions of all parties”Deputy Minister of Infrastructure, Yuri Vaskov
The specialist explained that both countries together produce a third of the world’s wheat and their exports are also key in products such as corn and sunflower oil, so the blockade on exports affected food security, especially in developing countries. .
Within this framework, in July 2022 the agreement was signed between the UN, Ukraine, Russia and Turkey that allows these cereals to be marketed through the Black Sea, and since then has allowed the sale of more than 20 million tons of food.
In mid-November, and despite a previous decision by the Kremlin to temporarily withdraw from the agreement, it was extended for 120 days, and has to be renewed again on March 18.
“I think there will be a lot of pressure on Russia to go ahead with the deal. I don’t doubt they will. They will want to take advantage of any extension to get whatever terms they can. But there is a lot of global pressure to stick with the deal because of the importance to supply of grain in the world,” explained Glauber.
In tune, the UN’s chief of humanitarian affairs, Martin Griffiths, indicated this week that he wants to “hope and believe” that the agreement will be renewed in mid-March, although he acknowledged that the situation is “somewhat more difficult” than when it was negotiated. the previous extension.
Without going any further, last Thursday the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry pointed against the “destructive actions” of Russia, which “obstruct the agreement in general, maritime transport in the Black Sea and the free access of food to world markets “.
Specifically, he denounced that the Russian representatives who inspect the cargo ships to prevent them from carrying weapons “systematically delay” the work, so that half of the planned investigations are carried out every day and there are 140 ships that have been waiting for their arrival for more than a month. I go through the Bosphorus.
For its part, Russia complains that its exports of fertilizers are blocked, despite an agreement that works in tandem with that of Ukrainian grains so that this product is not affected by the sanctions imposed by Western countries since the beginning of the war on February 24.
Moscow also argues that the grains are not being destined for the countries that most need these foods.
“Most of the commodities, corn in particular, went to two main markets: the European Union and China. That’s where Ukraine typically ships corn, so there’s nothing new,” said Glauber, who monitors commodity markets. food for almost 40 years.
Russia complains that its fertilizer exports are blocked, despite an agreement that works in tandem with that of Ukrainian grains
“Wheat is another story. At first a lot of it was shipped west up the Danube and by rail through Poland or Romania. Europe has probably imported more wheat from the Ukraine than in the past, but this is more linked to exports.” solidarity corridors (created by the EU to establish alternative export routes) than to the Black Sea initiative,” he added.
“The countries that have bought a lot of that wheat are in sub-Saharan Africa, the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and the North African countries, there is nothing unusual. So I think it is a false argument on Russia’s part.” , he stated and recalled that the grain that enters the world markets helps to reduce the general price, not only for the one that is imported from Ukraine.
As for Moscow’s complaint about its fertilizers, Glauber said exports of anhydrous ammonia “are below pre-war levels” while potash “are at similar levels to last year,” although these analyzes are complicated by the fact that Russia “stopped reporting official trade data after the start of the war.”
Meanwhile, the negotiations to prolong the agreement between the UN, Ukraine, Russia and Turkey “will begin next week and then we will know the positions of all parties”, declared yesterday the Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Infrastructure, Yuri Vaskov.
“I think common sense will prevail and the corridor will be widened,” he added, although the 2023 grain and oilseed harvest is expected to be smaller than last year due to logistical difficulties caused by the Russian invasion.