Last minute U-turn: Black Sea Grain Deal renewed for 60 days
18 May 2023 --- Just one day before the grain deal was due to expire, a two-month extension has been negotiated, which will allow Ukraine to export millions of tons of grain through the Black Sea despite the ongoing conflict with Russia.
The 60-day extension was negotiated by the United Nations and Turkey at the last moment and is hailed as helping to tackle the ongoing global food crisis, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.
The grain deal was initially set to expire today, which means the movement of ships through the corridor has been slowing down over the last few days, almost coming to a complete halt, according to some reports.
However, two more months of the initiative will provide some relief.
Russia initially appeared unwilling to extend the deal unless several demands regarding its agricultural exports were met.
“This is a chance to help ensure global food security, not in words, but in deeds. First and foremost, to help the countries most in need,” Russia’s foreign ministry said.
But yesterday (May 17), Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: “With the efforts of our country, the support of our Russian friends, the contribution of our Ukrainian friends, it was decided to extend the Black Sea grain deal for two more months.”
Background to the deal
The United Nations and Turkey brokered the Black Sea deal for an initial 120 days last July, at a time when there were increasing fears of global food shortages as a result of the war in Ukraine.
As one of the world’s top grain producers, Ukraine’s access to ports in the Black Sea was initially blocked by Russian warships following the beginning of the invasion in February 2022.
Despite much disagreement on both sides, the deal has been renegotiated several times and has kept going.
Last week, the Black Sea Grain Initiative topped 30 million metric tons of exported food from Ukraine. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the flow of cereals and other foodstuffs has helped bring down food commodity prices, which are 19.7% lower than a year ago.
Moreover, wheat prices are at their lowest level since July 2021.
By Gaynor Selby
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