A deal allowing Ukraine to export grain to world markets by ship despite Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea has been extended, the United Nations and the Ukrainian and Turkish governments announced on Saturday.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative, agreed in July under UN auspices and brokered by Turkey, allowed Ukraine to send 25 million tonnes of grain and edible oils, easing pressure on global food prices.
Oleksandr Kubrakov, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister in charge of infrastructure, tweeted that the agreement had been extended by 120 days.
The UN confirmed the deal had been delayed, but did not specify for how long, as did Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“The grain corridor agreement was supposed to expire today,” Erdoğan said in a speech in the Turkish city of Çannakale, Reuters reported. “As a result of our discussions with both parties, we have secured an extension to this agreement.”
The original agreement from last year said it would automatically continue for 120 days unless either side raised objections. Ukraine, Turkey and the UN supported the extension, but Moscow said it only wanted to extend it by 60 days.
The contract was extended once in November. It enables the export of commercial food and fertilizers, including ammonia, from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports – Odesa, Chornomorsk and Yuzhny/Pivdenny.
The Kremlin has pushed for the reopening of a pipeline to pump ammonia, a raw material for fertilizer, from Tolyatti in central Russia to Odessa for export. It is also demanding the easing of what it says are Western restrictions on Russian grain exports, even if they are not subject to sanctions.
This initiative has been a lifesaver for Ukrainian farmers and grain traders, as the alternative export routes of rail and river barge have much less capacity and are much more expensive.
Ships are escorted from authorized ports to avoid mines and then follow an agreed humanitarian corridor south towards Turkey.
Ukrainian officials have complained that Moscow is undermining the deal by ordering its officials to drag out inspections of Ukrainian ships as they leave the Black Sea for the Bosphorus. Russian inspectors were ordered to work shorter hours and take longer with each ship, delaying dozens of ships for weeks, Kiev claimed.
“The Black Sea Grains Initiative, together with the Memorandum of Understanding on the promotion of Russian food products and fertilizers on world markets, are essential for global food security, especially for developing countries,” the UN said.
“We remain firmly committed to both agreements and call on all parties to redouble their efforts to fully implement them.