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EU Raises Concerns Over Russia’s Cheap Grain Tactics

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The European Union (EU) has expressed concerns regarding Russia’s cheap grain tactics, warning developing countries about the potential negative consequences.

In a letter written by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and seen by Reuters, the EU cautioned that Russia’s actions could further exacerbate economic vulnerabilities and global food insecurity.

Borrell urged developing countries and Group of 20 (G20) countries to unite and push Russia to return to a deal that allowed the safe export of Ukrainian grain from the Black Sea region and to stop targeting Ukraine’s agricultural infrastructure.

The Black Sea deal, brokered in July 2022 by the United Nations and Turkey, aimed to alleviate the global food crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, Russia withdrew from the deal last month and subsequently began targeting Ukrainian ports and grain infrastructure in the Black Sea and Danube River. This aggressive action led to a spike in global grain prices and disrupted supplies.

The EU strongly condemned Russia’s approach in handling the situation. Borrell stated that Russia’s offer of discounted grain shipments to vulnerable countries was an attempt to create new dependencies. He accused Russia of using food as a weapon to exploit economic vulnerabilities and exacerbate global food insecurity. Borrell described this policy as cynical and called for collective action to address it.

Furthermore, Russian President Vladimir Putin made remarks to African leaders, highlighting Russia’s readiness to replace Ukrainian grain exports to Africa. Putin claimed that Russia could fulfil this role both commercially and through aid, asserting its critical role in global food security.

The EU’s concerns and condemnation of Russia’s tactics demonstrate the potential consequences of these actions. By offering cheap grain to vulnerable countries, Russia is seeking to create new dependencies and exploit economic vulnerabilities. The EU is urging developing and G20 countries to unite and oppose Russia’s actions, both in terms of returning to the Black Sea deal and ceasing their targeting of Ukraine’s agricultural infrastructure.

Spared No Effort

EU Raises Concerns Over Russia's Cheap Grain Tactics
Turkish-flagged bulker TQ Samsun, carrying grain under UN’s Black Sea Grain Initiative, is pictured in the Black Sea, north of Bosphorus Strait, off Istanbul, Turkey July 17, 2023. REUTERS/Yoruk Isik/File Photo.

Russia, one of the world’s largest exporters of grain, has recently made demands to enhance its own exports of grain and fertiliser. In response, the country has stated that if these demands are met, it would consider resurrecting the Black Sea agreement, which would have significant implications for global food security. This move has raised concerns and prompted responses from various international entities, including the EU and the UN.

One of Moscow’s primary demands is for the Russian Agricultural Bank to be reconnected to the SWIFT international payments system. The EU has taken note of this demand and emphasised that there are currently no sanctions on Russia’s exports of food and fertiliser to third countries. In a letter addressed to his EU counterparts, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell stated that the EU has spared no effort in ensuring that sanctions do not impact the food security of third countries. He further mentioned the EU’s commitment to preventing over-compliance and de-risking activities.

The issue of improving grain exports also caught the attention of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who revealed that UN officials had recently brokered a concrete proposal with the European Commission. However, Borrell did not mention this proposal in his letter, implying that it might not have met Russia’s demands satisfactorily. Nonetheless, he affirmed the EU’s support for the UN and Turkey’s efforts to revive the Black Sea grain deal.

It is crucial for EU countries to continue advocating for food security worldwide, especially with the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations in New York fast approaching. Borrell emphasised the importance of lobbying other nations on this matter to ensure global food security. The upcoming U.N. Security Council meeting on famine and global food insecurity caused by conflict, chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, further highlights the urgency and significance of addressing this issue.

Russia’s determination to enhance its grain exports has sparked debate about the potential impact on global food security. While the demands made by Russia are specific to its own interests, the consequences of these demands being met or ignored have far-reaching implications. The resurrection of the Black Sea agreement, in particular, would significantly affect grain trade dynamics and could disrupt existing supply chains.


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