Russia halts landmark deal that allowed Ukraine to export grain at time of growing hunger (2023)

LONDON (AP) — Russia on Monday halted a breakthrough wartime deal that allowed grain to flow from Ukraine to countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where hunger is a growing threat and high food prices have pushed more people into poverty.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Black Sea Grain Initiative would be suspended until demands to get Russian food and fertilizer to the world are met. An attack Monday on a bridge connecting the Crimean Peninsula to Russia was not a factor in the decision, he said.

“When the part of the Black Sea deal related to Russia is implemented, Russia will immediately return to the implementation of the deal,” Peskov said.

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Russian representatives at the operation center for the initiative were more definitive, calling the decision “a termination,” according to a note obtained by The Associated Press. Russia has complained that restrictions on shipping and insurance have hampered its agricultural exports, but it has shipped record amounts of wheat since last year.

The suspension marks the end of an accord that the U.N. and Turkey brokered last summer to allow shipments of food from the Black Sea region after Russia’s invasion of its neighbor worsened a global food crisis. The initiative is credited with helping reduce soaring prices of wheat, vegetable oil and other global food commodities.

Ukraine and Russia are both major global suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other food that developing nations rely on.

The suspension of the deal sent wheat prices up about 3% in Chicago trading, to $6.81 a bushel, which is still about half what they were at last year’s peak. Prices fell later in the day.

Some analysts don’t expect more than a temporary bump in food staples traded on global markets because countries such as Russia and Brazil have ratcheted up wheat and corn exports. But food insecurity worldwide and prices at local stores and markets have risen as developing countries also struggle with climate change, conflict and economic crises. Finding suppliers outside Ukraine that are farther away also could raise costs, analysts say.

The grain deal provided guarantees that ships would not be attacked entering and leaving Ukrainian ports, while a separate agreement facilitated the movement of Russian food and fertilizer. Western sanctions do not apply to Moscow’s agricultural shipments, but some companies may be wary of doing business with Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he wanted to keep the initiative going even without Russia’s safety assurances for ships.

“We are not afraid,” he said, adding that shipping companies told him “everyone is ready to continue supplying grain” if Ukraine and Turkey were on board.

The Russian Foreign Ministry again declared the northwestern Black Sea area “temporarily dangerous.” Sergei Markov, a Moscow-based pro-Kremlin political analyst, speculated that if Ukraine doesn’t heed the warnings, Russia could strike Ukrainian ports or place mines in shipping routes.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative has allowed three Ukrainian ports to export 32.9 million metric tons of grain and other food to the world, according to the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul.

Russia has repeatedly complained that the deal largely benefits richer nations. JCC data shows that 57% of the grain from Ukraine went to developing nations, with the top destination being China, which received nearly a quarter of the food.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the end of the deal will result in more human suffering but that the U.N. would keep working to ensure the flow of supplies from Ukraine and Russia.

“There is simply too much at stake in a hungry and hurting world,” Guteres told reporters.

Ukraine can still export by land or river through Europe, but those routes have a lower capacity and have stirred divisions among its neighbors.

In a post late Monday on his Telegram channel, Zelenskyy said he and Guterres agreed “to work together and with the responsible states” to restore food supplies via the Black Sea.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby blasted Moscow for pulling out of the deal and said the decision would “harm millions of vulnerable people around the world.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said officials were talking with Russia and that he hoped the deal would be extended.

The agreement was renewed for 60 days in May, but the amount of grain and number of vessels departing Ukraine have plunged, with Russia accused of preventing new ships from participating since June 27. The last ship left Ukraine on Sunday and was inspected Monday.

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The war in Ukraine sent food commodity prices to record highs last year and contributed to a global food crisis, which was also tied to other conflicts, the fallout from the pandemic and climate factors.

High grain prices in countries like Egypt, Lebanon and Nigeria exacerbated economic challenges and helped push millions more people into poverty or food insecurity.

Rising food prices affect people in developing countries disproportionately, because they spend more of their money on meals. Poorer nations that depend on imported food priced in dollars also are spending more as their currencies weaken and they are forced to import more because of climate change.

Under the deal, prices for wheat and other commodities have fallen, but food was already expensive before the war in Ukraine, and the relief hasn’t trickled down to kitchen tables.

“Countries such as Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia are dependent on food imports from Ukraine, so it does hamper availability and accessibility to food,” said Shashwat Saraf, the International Rescue Committee’s regional emergency director for East Africa.

Now, it’s key to watch whether Russia “weaponizes” its wheat exports, said Simon Evenett, professor of international trade and economic development at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland.

As the world’s current largest wheat supplier, Russia could hike its export taxes, which “would raise world grain prices as well as allow Russia to finance more of its military campaign in Ukraine,” Evenett said. He noted that Moscow already raised them slightly this month.

The grain deal has faced setbacks since it was brokered. Russia pulled out briefly in November before rejoining and extending the deal.

In March and May, Russia would only renew for two months, instead of the usual four. Joint inspections meant to ensure vessels carry only grain and not weapons have slowed considerably.

The amount of grain shipped per month has fallen from a peak of 4.2 million metric tons in October to over 2 million metric tons in June.

Meanwhile, Russia’s wheat shipments hit all-time highs following a large harvest. The country exported 45.5 million metric tons in the 2022-2023 trade year, with another record of 47.5 million metric tons expected in 2023-2024, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates.


Associated Press reporters Hanna Arhirova in Kyiv, Ukraine, Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and Andrew Wilks in Istanbul contributed.


See AP’s complete coverage of the war in Ukraine at and the food crisis at


Did Russia halt landmark deal that allowed Ukraine to export grain at time of growing hunger? ›

Russia halts landmark deal that allowed Ukraine to export grain at time of growing hunger. Russia has halted a breakthrough wartime deal that allows grain to flow from Ukraine to countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where hunger is a growing threat and high food prices have pushed people into poverty.

What is the grain deal between Russia and Ukraine? ›

The grain deal between Russia and Ukraine was agreed a year ago in Istanbul and brokered by the UN and Türkiye with the aim of releasing much-needed Ukrainian grain onto the global market and stopping the rise of food prices.

Who did Ukraine export grain to? ›

The biggest recipients were China, Spain, Turkey and Italy. Russia cited Ukraine's failure to export more grain to poorer countries as one of the reasons it pulled out of the deal.

How much grain was Ukraine exporting? ›

As the season came to a close at the end of June, Ukraine's grain exports were more than 48 million tons , about steady with the 2021-22 season.

Is the Ukraine exporting grain? ›

Ukraine is a major exporter of wheat, barley, vegetable oil and corn.

Has Ukraine been able to export wheat? ›

Share of grain export by country wealth

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP – the largest humanitarian organisation in the world) also shipped wheat from Black Sea ports. As of July 2023, the programme had bought 80% of its grain stock from Ukraine, up from 50% before the war.

Did Russia suspend Ukraine grain deal? ›

Russia has suspended on Monday July 17, 2023 a wartime deal brokered by the U.N. and Turkey that was designed to move food from Ukraine to parts of the world where millions are going hungry.

What were the effects of the Ukraine grain deal? ›

The deal helped bring down global prices of food commodities like wheat that hit record highs after Russia invaded Ukraine. As the war caused food and energy costs to surge worldwide, millions of people were thrown into poverty and faced greater food insecurity in already vulnerable nations.

Why did Russia exit grain deal? ›

Why did Russia say it's pulling out of the deal? Russia has threatened to exit the deal before, but each time it has chosen to stay in. But on July 17, 2023, it said it's unwilling to stay in the deal unless its demands are met to ship more of its own food and fertilizer.

Who buys the most grain from Ukraine? ›

Ukrainian grain export volume via the Black Sea 2022-2023, selected country. China was the leading export destination of agricultural products from Ukraine secured by the Black Sea Grain Initiative as of July 17, 2023, at eight million metric tons.

Is Ukraine the biggest exporter of grain? ›

As of 2022/2023 marketing year, Ukraine ranked fifth among the largest exporters of wheat worldwide with the total exports volume reaching over 13.5 million metric tons.

Is Ukraine the biggest supplier of grain? ›

Ukraine is the world's seventh-largest wheat producer and is forecasted to be the fifth-largest exporter for the 2021/22 marketing year. In 2021, Ukrainian wheat exports were valued at $5.1 billion, with Egypt, Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan, and Bangladesh as the primary destinations.

How much of US grains come from Ukraine? ›

According to the European Commission, Ukraine accounts for 10% of the world wheat market, 15% of the corn market, and 13% of the barley market. With more than 50% of world trade, it is also the main player on the sunflower oil market.

Who produces the most grain in the world? ›

China is the world's largest grain producer, yet has grown more dependent on food imports in recent decades. Much of India's output is produced by subsistence farmers and consumed locally.

Was Russia a major exporter of grain? ›

Summary. Throughout 2022/23, Russia has benefited from large supplies, both beginning stocks and record production. Russia has exported significant quantities of both grains and oilseeds, despite its lack of transparent trade data. Additional sources of data validate the strong export volumes amid low prices.

When did grain requisitioning start in Russia? ›

August 4, 1918. Food requisitioning detachments were important features of Russian life in 1918. They were organized mainly in the cities to requisition grain from the peasantry, especially in the southern regions.

What is the Russia Ukraine war's impact on global fertilizer markets? ›

Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine triggered global disruptions in markets for key food crops and fertilizers, threatening food security worldwide. With the war now entering its second year, high international food prices have moderated, though domestic price levels remain high in many low- and mid-income countries.

Who imports the most grain from Ukraine? ›

China was the leading export destination of agricultural products from Ukraine secured by the Black Sea Grain Initiative as of July 17, 2023, at eight million metric tons. Furthermore, six million metric tons went to Spain, while Turkey ranked third.

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