GRAIN OF DISCORD

The global grain crisis, which is gaining momentum and undermining the food security of the least developed countries, cannot be resolved without the involvement of the main exporters represented by Russia and Ukraine. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, more than 50 countries in North Africa, Western and Central Asia are already facing an acute shortage of grain.

At the end of July, representatives of the UN, the Russian Federation, Turkey, and Ukraine signed a package of documents on the Grain Initiative, that determines the algorithm for the export from the Black Sea ports and provides for the lifting of restrictions on the export of Russian agricultural products to world markets. The Russian Federation also expressed its readiness to send grain to the starving countries of Africa for free to minimize long-term consequences of growing food shortages.

However, despite all the efforts, the problem of food supplies to the African continent must be raised again and again due to the lack of visible progress in the realization of the Initiative. It is indicative of the recent statement by the Speaker of the National Assembly of Zimbabwe Jacob Francis Mudenda that the continent is still experiencing serious difficulties in ensuring food security, since the promised grain supplies do not reach Africa.

According to Vatan Party Farmer Bureau President and Ege University Retired Lecturer Prof. Dr. Cengiz Çakir, Mudenda’s alarmist statements are not groundless since the goal of the Grain Initiative has not yet been achieved. The source of the problem, in his opinion, is not a shortage of grain, but the greed of the West and large European corporations, which take all the grain for themselves and leave the surplus in their warehouses. In addition to Cengiz Çakir’s opinion, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also agrees that Ukraine’s grain has been shipped to Europe instead of the countries in need. It is already confirmed that grain carriers from Ukrainian ports go not to Yemen, Somalia, or Ethiopia, but to Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, China, South Korea, and Turkey.

It should be noted that this scenario is being implemented with the tacit consent of the US. Washington’s official opinion on this issue is based on the thesis that the grain market is global in structure, and it must be enough to saturate some part of it, as all other elements will also be protected from food shortages. In this statement, James O’Brien, U.S. Department of State Sanctions Coordinator Ambassador, transparently hints at the intention of the West to take away from Russia a possible lever of pressure on the international arena, depriving Moscow of the ability to manage the flow of grain and fertilizers.

At the same time, some analysts express fears that the EU’s concept may consist primarily in saturating its market, while African countries are used as bait. To dispel these suspicions, Brussels should demonstrate greater determination in implementing Europe’s migration policy, which has prioritised improving the living standards of developing African countries in its foreign policy, including by facilitating the implementation of the food deal between Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, and the UN.

Russia criticizes the European Union due to the lack of progress in the implementation of the Initiative, stating that all the grain exported from Ukraine is sent not to countries in need, but to the West. However, the failure of the Grain Initiative will not be critical for Russia, since it is recording a large harvest this year, and its main competitors in food production are shackled by war.

Recent Moscow’s decision to send fertilizers blocked in EU ports for free to minimize the long-term effects of food shortages could improve the situation for several African countries next year. So far, however, only the Netherlands has announced that it has lifted restrictions on the shipment of fertilizers to Malawi at the request of the UN. But we have yet to find out whether this will be enough, as the threat of famine is already looming over the world.

Kevan Salim is a student of The Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, Singapore.

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