World leaders are urging Russia to rejoin an agreement that safely delivered Ukraine’s grain worldwide and stabilized food prices. Humanitarian and government officials have warned of drastic consequences to Russia’s July 17 decision to walk away from the United Nations Black Sea Grain Initiative. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres had described the deal as “a lifeline for global food security and a beacon of hope in a troubled world.” Pope Francis called on Russia directly to rejoin the deal: “I appeal to my brothers, the authorities of the Russian Federation, so that the Black Sea initiative may be resumed and grain may be transported safely.”
Threat to food supply
The initiative, which the United Nations and Türkiye brokered in July 2022, moved more than 32 million metric tons of Ukrainian agricultural exports via the Black Sea. Nearly 19 million metric tons went to developing countries. The deal also helped reduce food prices by over 23% since March 2022, according to the United Nations. “With its latest decision to kill the grain deal, Russia is again disrupting the food-supply chain,” said Arian Spasse, Albania’s political coordinator at the U.N., on July 26. “And if this were not enough, it is intentionally targeting ports and grain storage facilities.”
Russia’s decision to walk away from the initiative has sweeping consequences. “The grain deal must be extended for the benefit of all the peoples of the world, Africans in particular,” said African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat on July 28. The deal delivered grain to some of the world’s most food-insecure countries, such as Yemen, Ethiopia, Somalia and Afghanistan. China has been the biggest beneficiary, acquiring almost 8 million metric tons of agricultural exports under the grain deal. Other recipients include Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kenya and Tunisia.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative also had supplied Ukrainian grain to the U.N.’s World Food Programme, the largest humanitarian organization in the world fighting hunger and food insecurity. Global conflict, climate change and rising prices have contributed to food shortages, especially in the Horn of Africa.
Calls on Russia to rejoin initiative
Many nations called for continued diplomacy. “India supports the efforts of the U.N. secretary-general in continuing the Black Sea Grain Initiative” said Ruchira Kamboj, India’s permanent representative to the U.N., on July 19. India “hopes for an early resolution to the present impasse,” Kamboj said. The U.S. government remains committed to working with partners to address the food crisis. The United States has provided over $14 billion since February 2022 to address food insecurity and contributed more than 50% of the World Food Programme’s budget. “In a world abundant with food, no one should ever starve to death — ever,” said U.S. Permanent Representative to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield on July 31. “This is a humanitarian issue, this is a moral issue, and this is a security issue.”