The Ukrainian Black Sea grain export agreement was extended

An agreement allowing Ukraine to export grain to world markets despite Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea has been extended, the United Nations and the Ukrainian and Turkish governments said on Saturday.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative, agreed in July under the auspices of the United Nations and brokered by Turkey, allowed Ukraine to ship 25 million tons of grain and cooking oil, reducing pressure on global food prices.

Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister for Infrastructure Oleksandr Kubrakov said in a tweet that the agreement had been extended by 120 days.

However, Moscow indicated that it only accepted a 60-day extension. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova republished a letter she sent to the United Nations earlier this week in which she said she was willing to extend the 60 days only if there was “tangible progress” in unblocking the flow of Russian food and fertilizers to world markets.

The UN confirmed that the agreement had been extended, but did not specify for how long, nor did Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

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“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 negotiations with the two parties, we secured the extension of the agreement.”

The original agreement, reached last year, stated that if neither party objects, it will automatically continue for 120 days. Ukraine, Turkey and the UN supported the full extension. Kiev says the 60-day extension creates too much uncertainty for grain traders and shippers.

The agreement was extended once in November. It allows the export of commercial food and fertilizers, including ammonia, from three Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea – Odesa, Chornomorsk and Yuzhny/Pivdenny.

The Kremlin has called for the reopening of a pipeline used to pump ammonia, the raw material for fertilizer, from Tolyatti in central Russia to Odesa for export. He has also demanded the easing of what he says are Western restrictions on Russian grain exports, even though they are not subject to sanctions.

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The initiative has been a lifeline for Ukrainian farmers and grain traders, as alternative export routes via rail and river barge have much lower capacity and are much more expensive.

The ships will be escorted out of authorized ports to avoid mines and then proceed south to Turkey along an agreed humanitarian corridor.

Ukrainian officials complained that Moscow had undermined the deal by ordering its officials to withdraw controls on Ukrainian ships sailing from the Black Sea to the Bosphorus. Kiev claims Russian inspectors have been ordered to work shorter hours and spend longer with each ship, delaying several ships for weeks.

“The Black Sea Grains Initiative, along with the Declaration of Intent to Promote Russian Food Products and Fertilizers on the World Market, is critical to global food security, especially for developing countries,” the UN said.

“We remain strongly committed to both agreements and urge all parties to redouble their efforts to fully implement them.”

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