Termination of black sea grain initiative and global food security

Was the deal being followed?

In his book Inglorious Empire, Shashi Tharoor considered Winston Churchill responsible for the 1942-1945 Bengali feminine that was exacerbated by the decisions of Churchill’s wartime cabinet in London during WWII.

The history of warfare is replete with instances such as this one, in which wars and conflicts imperil the global means of survival by causing food shortages and severe disruptions to economic activities. During World War II, Nazi Germany devised a “Hunger Plan” that, if carried out, might have led to the starving of at least 20 million people in areas ruled by the USSR. The German occupation of Leningrad (St. Petersburg), between 1941 and 1944 resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people due to starvation.

The UN adopted the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, which include eradicating extreme hunger and food insecurity. The number of people who are hungry and undernourished had been decreasing for at least two decades, but after 2015, it started to rise. The primary causes of this setback, according to experts, are conflicts and wars, as well as climate change-related weather occurrences.

The world was alarmed by the prospect of a de facto blockade of the Black Sea following the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which caused grain exports to fall to one-sixth of their pre-war level.  Moscow and Kyiv are two of the world’s largest exporters of grain, and the blockade could have caused the price of grains to skyrocket.  Therefore on 22 July 2022, two related agreements were signed in Istanbul: the Memorandum of Understanding between the Russian Federation and the Secretariat of the United Nations on promoting Russian food products and fertilizers to global markets and the Black Sea Initiative on Ukrainian food and Russian ammonia exports. With the ostensible humanitarian goals of maintaining global food security, lessening the threat of famine, and assisting underdeveloped Asian, African, and Latin American nations, this package was negotiated at the proposal of and with the cooperation of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The agreement sought to prevent starvation by increasing the supply of wheat, sunflower oil, fertilizer, and other goods on the global market, including those used for humanitarian purposes. It aimed to export five million metric tonnes of grain each month as it did before the Ukraine crisis. A week after its signature, the Black Sea Initiative was inaugurated and a maritime humanitarian corridor was established. Moreover, an Istanbul-based Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) was established for the registration and inspection of participating vessels. It was a successful mission accomplished by the UN and it was hoped to save the world from starvation by obeying the terms and conditions of the signed agreement to avoid any further inconveniences.

According to the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC), ta total of 100 outbound ships carrying more than 2.3 million tonnes of grain have so far departed from Ukraine, 36 percent of this, has gone to states in the European Union, while 30 percent of the cargo has thus far gone to developing and under-developed states.

The records by JCC stated that 20 percent of the grain was shipped to Turkey, and the remaining 27 percent was split among Asian nations, including China (seven percent), The Republic of Korea (six percent), Iran (five percent), India (four percent), Israel (two percent), Yemen (two percent), and Lebanon (one percent). Spain received 15 percent of the 36 percent of produce that was exported to the EU; other countries that benefited were Italy (seven percent), the Netherlands (five percent), Romania (four percent), Germany (three percent), Ireland, France (one percent), Bulgaria (one percent), and Greece (one percent). The remaining 17 percent of the cargo has arrived in African nations, including Djibouti (one percent), Sudan (three percent), Kenya (two percent), and Somalia (one percent). According to the experts, the amount of grains delivered to the most deprived regions of Africa are not sufficient to fulfill the needs of the people. A variety of food items, including wheat, corn for animal feed, sunflower meal, soybeans, sunflower oil, and sunflower seed, have been transported but, only 17 percent of which reached Africa and other regions that desperately need food.

In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed concern that “almost all” of the Ukrainian grain shipped as part of a UN-backed agreement to address a global food crisis was ending up in wealthy European countries. He said that only two of the 87 ships transporting grain from Ukraine brought grain for the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP). According to Moscow, only 60,000 tonnes of the approximately two million tonnes that leave Ukrainian ports are represented by this. However, the EU and Ukraine have denied the allegations.

Safe passages for grain transport should not be used for war purposes. In addition, the USA and the European Union should lift unilateral sanctions that remove Russian agricultural products from international markets and create artificial scarcities, as they exacerbate an already dire global situation. The justified distribution of grain shipment to the starved regions of Africa and Asia should be carefully addressed in order to reestablish the humanitarian deal.

Recently, Russia terminated the deal which it called a failure to meet its demands to implement a parallel agreement easing rules for its own food and fertilizer exports. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia would “return” to the deal “immediately” if its demands about its exports were met. The Kremlin has also complained that not enough grain has reached poor countries under this humanitarian initiative. The World Food Program (WFP) has recognized that “export volumes remain far below pre-conflict averages”.

It can be observed why the commercialization of a formerly humanitarian project is important to consider. Over 17 million hectares of Ukraine’s agricultural land are held by western companies including Cargill, DuPont, and Monsanto. They acquired land in Ukraine after Kiev relaxed a 20-year ban on land sales at the IMF’s urging, and they were the primary recipients of grain exports from Ukraine. Europeans, on the other hand, purchase Ukrainian food below market rates and prepare it in their own factories for later resale as completed goods with significant added value. In actuality, Westerners profit from both the sale and processing of grain.

Notably, Kyiv did not hesitate to carry out strikes against Russian military and civilian targets while the Black Sea Initiative was in effect while using the humanitarian sea corridor and shipping as a cover. In fact, in contravention of the Black Sea Initiative, terrorist attacks have been carried out using the ports and the safe passage that Russia opened for Ukrainian grain shipments.

At the moment, when providing access to nutritious food ought to be a top priority on a worldwide scale, it is extremely alarming to see hunger utilized as a tool in geopolitical disputes. After the termination of the deal, the extent of the world’s food crisis would keep growing, which might lead to an enormous humanitarian catastrophe. With UN assistance, concerns related to the Black Sea Grain initiative should be addressed.

Safe passages for grain transport should not be used for war purposes. In addition, the USA and the European Union should lift unilateral sanctions that remove Russian agricultural products from international markets and create artificial scarcities, as they exacerbate an already dire global situation. The justified distribution of grain shipment to the starved regions of Africa and Asia should be carefully addressed in order to reestablish the humanitarian deal.

Gul Ayesha Bhatti
Gul Ayesha Bhatti
The writer can be reached at [email protected]

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