Will the grain deal be extended?

On Nov 16 G20 countries backed efforts to maintain a grain export corridor from Ukraine to alleviate food insecurity but faced criticism for a lack of further action to tackle hunger in the world. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is optimistic the grain deal with Ukraine will continue. Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, also expressed optimism for the deal’s renewal.

The main grain supplier

Given that Ukraine is a significant food supplier, it will be a relief for global markets if the renewal succeeds.

“We have continuous conversations,” Erdogan told reporters in Bali, Indonesia, where the G20 summit is coming to an end. “As of now, I believe that this will continue.” The Turkish leader also said that during their recent conversation, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered him “some green light” regarding the possibility of renewing the agreement.

Since the summer, the deal, accompanied by Turkey and the U.N., has assisted Ukraine in releasing nearly 11 million tons of food products from its silos, including wheat, corn, and sunflower oil. It has also helped to lower global food prices, which has aided developing nations that are struggling to afford food imports.

Russia in the grain deal

However, Russia has attacked the pact, claiming it has restricted its exports of food and fertilizer. Earlier in a month, Moscow temporarily halted its adherence to the Black Sea pact before rejoining. As the deadline of November 19 draws near, Turkey and Ukraine have been pressing to widen the agreement.

Over several weeks of negotiations, Moscow placed its continued participation in the agreement on securing relief from Western sanctions imposed on the Russian Agricultural Bank and increased assurances and flexibility for its exports of food and fertilizer. According to Western officials, Russia’s food and fertilizers have not been sanctioned.

Calming tensions

While Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, who was also in Bali, claimed the Black Sea accord would be “tacitly reaffirmed,” the European Union has not been actively participating in the agreement. Instead, the organization has concentrated on improving Ukraine’s overland trade connections.

This means that the plan that has been in place since last August can continue, said Macron. In regards to extending the agreement, one E.U. officials stated that “there have been reassuring moves by the sides.”

Ismini Palla, the spokesperson for the Black Sea Grain Initiative for the United Nations, stated, “we cannot confirm anything at this time.”

Despite optimism elsewhere, Russia has stayed quiet on whether it will leave the agreement.

The Joint Coordination Center, an institution that has overseen the deal’s implementation, is located in Istanbul. The Joint Coordination Center was one of the countries that helped arrange the agreement with the U.N. back in July. When Russia ceased to participate in the accord in November, Turkey and Ukraine continued to carry out the pact’s terms.

Some commentators questioned if Russia’s continuous cooperation was still essential, given Turkey’s role in assuring the safety of the ships.

Russia is not important in the deal

A member at the Atlantic Council Alp Sevimlisoy said, “So much has been made in the media as to Russia’s significance in this, but I think at this stage it’s more of a symbolic participation because the real authority in assuring the security of these supplies remains with Turkey.” The grain arrangement has evolved into a Turkish-Ukrainian partnership at this stage.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine, said to the G20 that he wanted the deal to be extended for an “indefinite” amount of time and that two other seaports should be included in its scope, allowing the nation to export millions more tons of grain.
Macron drew attention to the fact that France is funding the shipment of Russian fertilizer that Moscow has supplied to African nations through the U.N. World Food Programme, to the tune of €7.5 million, in Bali. Macron, however, also called Russia’s restrictions on its fertilizers “irresponsible.”

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