At a time when there is already a rising hunger problem in the world, Russia’s decision to withdraw from an agreement that ensured safe passage for ships carrying essential grain exports from Ukraine has raised “grave fears” about the world’s food supply.
All of the major international humanitarian groups, the European Union, NATO, and the United Nations have begged Moscow to change its mind, stating that any reduction in Ukrainian exports might have possibly fatal repercussions.
Here’s what we know so far.
How does the grain deal work?
The deal between Russia and Ukraine was brokered in July by the United Nations and Turkey.
It put in place a procedure that guaranteed the safety of ships carrying Ukrainian grain, fertilizer and other foodstuffs through a humanitarian corridor in the Black Sea.
One-third of the world’s wheat is produced by Russia and Ukraine.
However, the Kremlin warned against the continuation of the deal.
Asked if it was possible to maintain grain shipments without Russia’s participation, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told journalists Monday that without Russia guaranteeing navigation safety, “such a deal is hardly feasible.”
What is happening now?
Despite Russia’s decision to pull out of the deal, Kyiv said 12 vessels were able to leave Ukraine’s Black Sea ports as of Monday morning.
These included the Ikaria Angel, a vessel which was chartered by the World Food Programme and loaded with 30,000 metric tons of wheat destined for the Horn of Africa, which is currently experiencing a major food crisis.
The UN said Sunday that a plan was put in place to allow 16 vessels to move on Monday – 12 out of the Ukrainian ports and four in the other direction.
It added there were 21 vessels in or near the Ukrainian ports with a capacity of over 700,000 metric tons that were impacted by the announcement.
However, Ukrainian officials have warned that dozens of ships could be blocked from moving.
Why is the grain deal so important?
Ukraine plays a key role in the global food market.
It ranks among the top five global exporters of barley, corn and wheat.
In normal times, Ukraine would export around three-quarters of the grain it produces.
The impact of the war on global food markets was imminent and extremely painful, especially because Ukraine is a major supplier of grain to the World Food Program.
The Black Sea deal provided much-needed relief.
It added that as of Monday, more than 9.5 million metric tonnes of foodstuffs had been exported under the deal since it came into effect in the summer.
Shashwat Saraf, the East Africa Emergency Director at the International Rescue Committee, said a collapse of the deal would “hit those on the brink of starvation the most.”
“The renewed blockade is prompting grave concerns about the growing global hunger crisis, especially in East Africa where over 20 million people are experiencing hunger, or in places like Yemen which relies on Russia and Ukraine for almost half its wheat import and where over 19 million people need food assistance,” he said.
“Any attempt to undermine the agreement is an attack on hungry families around the world whose lives and livelihoods are dependent on this initiative,” USAID Administrator Samantha Power said Sunday.
“The current crisis of affordability will turn into a crisis of availability.”
Why is Russia withdrawing now?
Under the original agreement, the deal was meant to be in place for at least 120 days and was up for renewal in mid-November.
On Saturday, Russia’s defence ministry said that Russia was ditching the deal because of drone attacks on the Crimean city of Sevastopol.
It claimed that one of the drones could have been launched from a civilian ship carrying grain.
CNN cannot independently verify Russia’s report.
Russian President Vladimir Putin last week threatened to restrict Ukraine’s export to Europe, falsely claiming that developing countries were not receiving their fair share of the grain.
Was there any immediate reaction?
On Monday, the cost of wheat and corn increased in the world commodities markets. On Monday, the price of wheat on the Chicago Board of Trade increased 5.5% to $8.74 per bushel. Futures for corn increased 2.3% to $6.96 per bushel. According to Reuters, there was an increase in palm oil futures trade in Malaysia due to concerns over the potential impact on Ukrainian sunflower oil shipments.
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