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21 Mar, 2023 11:29

Russia ready to deliver free grain to Africa – Putin

According to the Russian president, deliveries will happen if the Black Sea deal is not extended further
Russia ready to deliver free grain to Africa – Putin

Russia is considering a plan to send grain “free of charge” to countries in Africa, particularly those in greatest need, President Vladimir Putin has said.

His remarks come two days after the Black Sea Initiative, which allows Ukrainian agricultural produce to be exported via the Black Sea in a deal supported by the UN and Türkiye, was extended by 60 days.

Speaking on Monday at the International Parliamentary Conference “Russia-Africa in a Multipolar World,” President Putin said Moscow’s decision to extend the agreement was “guided by the needs of African countries.”

According to the UN, since the initiative was introduced in July 2022, approximately 25 million metric tons of grain and other produce have been sent to 45 countries, helping to stabilize global food prices. The deal includes a Memorandum of Understanding between Russia and the UN, with the goal of freeing up fertilizer exports.

However, the Russian leader expressed concern over the diversion of grain to wealthier European countries. He noted that between August 2022 and March 2023, “827 ships left Ukraine, of which only three million tons of grain were sent to Africa and 1.3 million to the poorest countries in Africa,” while “almost 45% went to well-fed European countries.”

The Russian president earlier insisted on reducing the duration of the deal from an initial 120 days to 60, to hold out for amendments “in the interests of African and other developing countries, considering that they need large amounts of food.”

He warned that Russia will only continue to abide by the agreement if certain conditions are met. Moscow has previously urged Western powers to lift sanctions on Russian agricultural exports, as a condition for maintaining the grain deal with Ukraine.

Speaking at the UN Security Council last Friday, Russia’s Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia explained that while Moscow has agreed to extend the scheme, it can only continue further if Western countries address Russia’s concerns.

President Putin pledged in his address on Monday:  “If we nevertheless decide not to renew this deal after 60 days, then we are ready to deliver the entire volume that was sent from Russia to African countries during the previous period, in particular those in need, to those countries free of charge.”