Russia has begun its first free shipments of grain to Africa since withdrawing from the Black Sea grain deal.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had promised to send free grain totaling up to 200,000 tonnes to six African countries during a summit with African leaders in July.
The shipments are part of Russia’s efforts to support these countries in light of the end of the Black Sea grain initiative, a deal that allowed Ukraine to ship grain from its Black Sea ports despite the war with Russia.
Dmitry Patrushev, Russia’s agriculture minister, announced the start of the shipments on Friday through a statement posted on Telegram. Ships have already left Russian ports and are headed for Burkina Faso and Somalia, with additional shipments planned for Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Mali, and the Central African Republic.
The Black Sea grain initiative, brokered by the United Nations, aimed to inject more wheat, sunflower oil, fertiliser, and other products into world markets, including for humanitarian needs. The initiative was crucial in averting famine and supporting the affected regions. However, after Russia withdrew from the deal, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that the “dramatic impact” caused by the end of the arrangement could not be corrected with just a “handful of donations.”
Russia’s decision to send free grain to African countries comes amidst ongoing tensions with Ukraine. Since withdrawing from the Black Sea grain deal, Russia has been accused of bombing Ukrainian ports and grain storage facilities. Kyiv claims that hundreds of thousands of tonnes of cereals have been destroyed as a result.
Despite the controversy surrounding Russia’s actions in Ukraine, the country aims to fulfil its promise to support African countries by providing them with essential grain supplies. The shipments of free grain will play a crucial role in easing the food shortage and contributing to the stability and development of these African nations.
The importance of this gesture should not be underestimated. By sending free grain, Russia demonstrates its commitment to fulfilling its promises and supporting countries in need. Access to food is a fundamental human right, and these shipments will help alleviate hunger and improve the quality of life for countless individuals in the recipient countries.
The alternative corridor
Following the collapse of the agreement, Ukraine has introduced an alternative route known as the “humanitarian corridor” along the western coast of the Black Sea, near Romania and Bulgaria.
According to a senior Ukrainian government official quoted by the Interfax-Ukraine news agency on Friday, approximately 151 ships have utilised this new shipping corridor since its establishment in August.
Deputy Minister for Renovation and Infrastructure, Yuriy Vaskov, stated that a total of 4.4 million metric tonnes of cargo, including 3.2 million tonnes of grain, have been transported through this corridor.
Currently, 30 ships are being loaded at Ukrainian ports, including 22 ships carrying 700,000 tonnes of grain and eight ships preparing to transport 500,000 tonnes of other cargo.
Ukraine is a prominent global producer and exporter of grain. Ensuring the smooth flow of grain exports is crucial for its economy, which experienced a significant contraction of about one-third last year. However, it is projected to grow by approximately 5 percent this year.