ISTANBUL, TURKEY — Russia and Ukraine signed separate agreements with Turkey and the United Nations on July 22 that would allow Ukraine to resume grain shipments to world markets and Russia to export grain and fertilizers, ending a standoff that threatened world food security amid the war in Ukraine, the Associated Press reported.
The deal, which was brokered by Turkey and the United Nations, will enable Ukraine, one of the world’s biggest wheat and corn producers and exporters, to move millions of tonnes of grain on to the world market through its major Black Sea ports.
Although Ukraine has been able to transport several million tonnes of grain via rail, rivers and roadways, it is estimated that more than 20 million tonnes of grain that would have been exported has remained in Ukraine.
The result of the port blockade has been record-high grain prices and a sharp increase in food insecurity, particularly in the Middle East and Africa, which depend heavily on wheat imports from the Black Sea region.
The plan, according to a recent report by Reuters, includes Ukrainian vessels guiding grain ships through mined port waters, with Turkey overseeing inspections of ships to allay Russian concerns they might smuggle weapons to Ukraine.
The deal reportedly includes a reduction in Western economic sanctions that have been imposed on Russia, the world’s leading exporter of fertilizers, since the invasion. Russia has claimed the sanctions have slowed its food and fertilizer exports.
Even if the agreement holds and grain ships are allowed to flow freely in and out of Ukrainian ports, there is still concern that the war, now in its fifth month, will severely impact Ukraine’s ability to harvest its current crop.
With farmers struggling to complete their harvest, particularly in the war-torn sections of Ukraine, and with reports of Russian troops setting fire to Ukrainian wheat fields, agricultural agencies are forecasting that the country’s grain output will be significantly smaller than usual in 2022-23.
For instance, the Foreign Agricultural Service of the US Department of Agriculture projects Ukraine’s 2022-23 wheat crop at 19.5 million tonnes, well below last year’s 33 million and, if realized, the smallest in 10 years.