1. In signing these agreements in July 2022, Russia was guided primarily by humanitarian goals, namely, to ensure global food security, to reduce the threat of famine, and to aid Asian, African, and Latin American countries in need.
2. Unlike Westerners, we do not aim to extract geopolitical dividends from economic cooperation with the Global South, instead, we contribute to securing their socioeconomic stability through consistent increases in grain exports.
3. Our position on the resumption of maritime grain traffic from Ukraine remains unchanged: Russia will be ready to consider the restoration of the grain deal in accordance with its stated humanitarian objectives, only if Western countries entirely fulfil our requirements under the Russia-UN memorandum.
I hope that the comments I outline above and below will help readers gain a more adequate understanding of the substance of the issue. Please read on:
We noticed that the article “Why Russia must not weaponize hunger” by French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna (The Jakarta Post, Aug. 21, 2023) contains an incorrect interpretation of Russia’s suspended participation in the Istanbul package agreements: the Black Sea Initiative on Ukrainian food and Russian ammonia exports and the memorandum of understanding between the Russian Federation and the United Nations Secretariat on promoting Russian food products and fertilizers to world markets.
In signing these agreements in July 2022, Russia was guided primarily by humanitarian goals, namely to ensure global food security, to reduce the threat of famine, and to provide assistance to Asian, African and Latin American countries in need. With the tacit consent of the UN, the Ukrainian part of the deal immediately transformed from humanitarian to commercial. During the year of the initiative’s functioning, 32.8 million tonnes of food were exported, of which more than 70 percent (26.3 million tonnes) went directly to high- and upper-middle-income countries, including the member states of the European Union, whereas less than 3 percent (922,000 tonnes) of the total volume was exported to the poorest countries through the humanitarian sea corridor.
Besides, the Kyiv regime used this route to carry out terrorist attacks against Sevastopol, the Crimean Bridge and Russian ships. On June 5, the Togliatti-Odessa ammonia pipeline was blown up, through which the supply of raw materials was the core element of both agreements. Despite the assurances of the French foreign minister, it is a fact that our conditions in the Russia-UN memorandum have not been fulfilled. Foreign ports were closed for Russian ships and cargo. The imports to our country of spare parts and equipment for agricultural production were also banned. Foreign accounts of Russian agricultural companies have been frozen amid the Western statements that food and fertilizers were not the targets of their sanctions.
Finally, Rosselkhozbank has not been reconnected to the SWIFT system. Given the fact that our food supplies significantly contribute to global food security (the Russian share of the world wheat market is 20 percent, while the Ukrainian share is less than 5 percent), it is obvious that the West is guided not by the needs of countries striving for food and fertilizers, but by the desire to punish Russia. Madame Colonna’s attempts to blame Russia for the alleged surge in world food prices due to the suspension of this grain initiative look ridiculous. During the first month after the termination of the agreement, no price jumps for grain products were recorded in the world, and since the end of July, there has even been a decrease in quotations for wheat and corn (by 3.8 percent and 5 percent, respectively).
Moreover, wheat prices fell by 35 percent compared with the previous season, prices for corn by 26 percent and barley by 41 percent. According to the International Grains Council, there are currently no global crisis phenomena in the production of grain crops and their trade. Unlike Westerners, we do not aim to extract geopolitical dividends from economic cooperation with the Global South, instead, we contribute to securing their socioeconomic stability through consistent increases in grain exports: In 2022, 30 percent of Russian wheat was sent to Africa, and in the first seven months of this year, this figure has already reached almost 40 percent (around 10 million tonnes). At the same time, the rest of this export goes mainly to Asian countries.
A separate area of our efforts is the gratuitous supply of domestic agricultural products to those in need. In the next few months, we will send 300,000 tonnes of grain free of charge to several African states. In addition, together with partners, we are working on a mechanism for compensating the entire volume of agricultural products sent under the Black Sea Initiative to low-income countries (up to 1 million tonnes). With the assistance of the UN, we will continue to transfer 262,000 tonnes of Russian fertilizers to the poorest countries. Our position on the resumption of maritime grain traffic from Ukraine remains unchanged: Russia will be ready to consider the restoration of the grain deal in accordance with its stated humanitarian objectives, only if Western countries entirely fulfill our requirements under the Russia-UN memorandum.
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