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Why It Matters To Revive the Black Sea Grain Initiative

Hundreds of millions of innocent people around the world are still facing increased food costs, as food supplies were partially disrupted following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Before the war, global wheat prices were fairly stable at around USD $320 per tonne. But prices reached a record high of nearly USD $450 per tonne by May 2022. The Black Sea Grain Initiative helped push prices back down and ensure greater availability of grain. But Russia’s termination of the Initiative means reduced supplies and threatens prices again.

With the war ongoing, it is imperative that countries work together to improve global food security and reduce price volatility to protect people all around the world. Here in Egypt, various countries and international institutions are partnering with the Egyptian government to help ensure food security for Egyptians.

The G7 members collectively have committed over USD $500 million to work with Egypt on ensuring food supplies and tackling rising food prices. This includes projects to increase grain storage capacity, financing for rural businesses and smallholder farmers, government-to-government loans, and boosting support to the World Food Programme’s work in Egypt – as well as initiatives to channel private businesses to invest in Egypt’s agriculture sector and increase wheat exports to Egypt.

The UN and Türkiye brokered the Black Sea Grain Initiative in July 2022. This deal, in addition to the UN’s efforts to engage Russia on agricultural exports, ensured the continuity of grain exports through the Black Sea, in order to stabilise grain prices around the world and provide more affordable food for all. And it worked: helping to lower food prices by nearly 20 percent after the peak in 2022. Under the Initiative, 33 million tonnes of grain and other foodstuffs have been exported from Ukraine – Egypt was the 6th largest recipient.

The UN confirmed that low and middle income countries collectively received 57% of the grain under the Initiative. The World Food Programme also procured more than 50% of its wheat supply under the Initiative in 2022, and 80% so far in 2023 – much of which went to countries facing food security challenges like Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

Therefore, we share the UN Secretary-General’s regret at Russia’s decision to terminate its participation in the Initiative, and his warning that this will increase food prices for everyone everywhere. The UN and international community worked hard to increase stability for both Ukrainian and Russian agricultural exports – including a range of agreements on payment mechanisms for Russian exports.

Without the Black Sea Grain Initiative, millions of tonnes of Ukrainian agricultural goods risk not reaching global markets, and global prices are volatile once more. Following Russia’s withdrawal, global grain prices spiked again – and the International Monetary Fund estimates this will drive up global grain prices by 10-15 percent.

Since withdrawing from the Initiative, Russia has also been attacking Ukrainian ports – in one attack destroying over 60,000 tonnes of grain ready for export, enough to feed 270,000 people for a year.

Reduced supply and higher global prices will have a worrying impact on world food security. We welcome the UN Secretary General’s commitment to “efforts to facilitate the unimpeded access to global markets for food products and fertilizers from both Ukraine and the Russian Federation,” as well as President Sisi’s call for “consensus on a grain export agreement that takes into account the demands and interests of all parties.” We must all strive to restore and fully implement the Black Sea Grain Initiative in order to stabilise global food markets. We will continue to work in partnership with Egypt to support food security for the Egyptian people and for us all.

The Embassies of: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union.

Source : US Embassy