Russia announced on Saturday that it was suspending its involvement in the agreement that has allowed Ukraine to ship grain and other commodities from its Black Sea ports.
The United Nations estimates the Black Sea Grain Initiative has saved 100 million people globally from extreme poverty.
Russia justified its decision to pull out of the deal by citing an attack on its fleet near Crimea that it blamed on Ukraine and Great Britain.
“Due to the actions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, led by British specialists, the Russian side cannot guarantee the safety of civilian dry cargo ships participating in the ‘Black Sea Initiative,’ and suspends its implementation for an indefinite period,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
In a statement Saturday night, Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on Russia to reverse its decision. The initiative "has been a success and must continue.
"Any act by Russia to disrupt these critical grain exports is essentially a statement that people and families around the world should pay more for food or go hungry. In suspending this arrangement, Russia is again weaponizing food in the war it started, directly impacting low- and middle-income countries and global food prices, and exacerbating already dire humanitarian crises and food insecurity."
The United Nations had been struggling to extend the initiative, which began in July and is set to expire Nov. 19.
In a statement Friday, a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called for an extension of the agreement, saying it said it was also critical to ensuring that farmers have access to the fertilizer they need for coming crops.
“If food and fertilizers do not reach global markets now, farmers will not have fertilizers at the right time and at a price they can afford as the planting season begins, endangering crops in all regions of the world in 2023 and 2024, with dramatic effect on food production and food prices worldwide. The current crisis of affordability will turn into a crisis of availability,” the spokesman said.
Responding to Russia’s announcement on Saturday, Ukraine Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said in a tweet, “Russia continues torpedoing the Black Sea grain corridor, undermining global food security.
“We call on countries that rely on grain exports — in Africa, Middle East & Asia, to send a clear signal to Moscow that taking millions of people hostage to its hunger games is unacceptable.”
Joe Glauber, an economist with the International Food Policy Research Institute and a former chief economist for USDA, said the initiative had essentially doubled Ukraine's previously monthly exports.
While the shipments were still only half of the levels a year ago, the agreement "provided needed grains and oilseeds to a hungry world. While true that some of those exports went to the EU and other developed economies, the world benefitted from lower prices as a result of the increase in exports. This move also further penalizes Ukraine farmers who will have less incentives to plant for next, further extending short global supplies into 2023," Glauber said.
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