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Russian grain handout to Africa can’t replace Ukraine’s disrupted exports – UN chief

Russia offered to donate 25-50k tons of grain to 6 countries after pulling out of deal that allowed export of 30mn tons; this cannot offset rising prices, says UN chief
Antonio Guterres UN
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. Photo: UN/Flickr
Russian grain handout to Africa can’t replace Ukraine’s disrupted exports – UN chief

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has criticized Russia’s offers to supply dozens of tons of grain to African nations after pulling out of a deal that enabled exports of Ukrainian produce.

Speaking to journalists in New York, Guterres said that the UN is making efforts to establish the Black Sea Grain Initiative that allowed to export 30 million tons of Ukrainian grain from its Black Sea ports and that Russia’s “handful of donations to some countries” cannot offset the consequences of the disrupted deal.

“It is clear that when taking out of the market millions and millions of tons of grain, it is clear that, based on economic laws, that it will lead to higher prices than the ones that would exist with the normal access of Ukrainian grain to international markets.  And these increases of prices will be paid by everybody, everywhere, and namely, by developing countries and by the vulnerable people in middle-income and even developed countries,” Guterres said, adding that the UN is continuing efforts to re-establish the deal, and has “had contacts with the Russian Federation” in that regard. 

Gutteres refers to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim that Russia would be able to replace Ukrainian grain exports to Africa blocked by Moscow’s decision to abandon the UN-brokered arrangement on the first day of a Russia-Africa summit in St Petersburg.

“In the coming months, we will be ready to provide Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, the Central African Republic, and Eritrea with 25,000-50,000 tonnes of grain free of charge,” Putin told attending African leaders on Thursday, Guardian reported.

This donation falls short of the 30 million tons that the deal enabled (as per the UK intelligence) during its nearly year of operation and does nothing to address the crisis caused by rising food prices. 

Results of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Source: UN data

The Russia-Africa summit is intended to portray Russia as a great power to African nations. However, this year only 17 African heads of state attended, down from 43 at the last iteration. 

  • On 17 July 2023, the Russian Federation withdrew from the Black Sea grain initiative, a UN-brokered agreement to unblock Ukraine’s ports and export its grain, and stated that it would guarantee that it would not attack civilian vessels after that date. The Ukrainian defense ministry mirrored Russia’s threats to ships at sea.
  • After that, Russia launched massive missile attacks Odesa and the region with missiles and drones, destroying ports, granaries, residential buildings, and other facilities. 
  • NATO has condemned the Russian attacks, but has thus far only vowed to increase surveillance.

Correction and update: a previous version of this report said 7 African leaders attended; in fact, 17 did. The section about the proportion of grain exports based on UN Data was added as an update


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