African countries rely on both Russia and Ukraine for the import of food grains. The African Union(AU) themed 2022 as the ‘year of nutrition and food security’, but the impact of climate change, Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine has had a huge impact on its intended outcome. The United States holds Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports responsible for the reversal of the goal as most of the grain destined for Africa goes through the Black Sea.* Fears of famine arose due to a surge in food prices since the war scenario began in February, as a consequence of which, a number of African leaders visited Russia to discuss the impact of the port blockade.
The Istanbul Accord of July 22
The Black Sea Grain initiative was signed to resume exports of food grains on 22nd July. The initiative was signed to help ease the poor nations avert a food crisis which was brokered in July by Turkey and the UN.
Supply chain glitches have resulted in the non delivery of the grain from Ukraine’s ports, which is what the Istanbul accord of July sought to remedy. The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, clearly emphasised that the supposed thrust of the agreement did not go as planned. The Ukraine grain went to developed countries in the west which was stated at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Uzbekistan held between 15th-16thSeptember’22.
Western sanctions affect Russia’s decision to help poor countries of Africa by supplying grains and fertilisers (some free of charge) as the donations were actually meant to satisfy grumbling stomachs of the poor in Africa. Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, stated the same in a speech at the UN general assembly where he cited that the western sanctions imposed on Russia prevented the supply. He stated that,”financial and logistical obstacles,put up by the United States and The European Union have prevented the export of Russian grain and fertilisers.”
This was unjust since the Russian donation was meant to address the UN’s prediction on the increasing number of poor families in Africa who were unable to get access to the grain.
SCO Summit Agenda
Lavrov, on 24thSeptember’22, at the 77th session of the UN general assembly said that the sanctions imposed “have not yet been lifted completely.” President Putin at the SCO stressed, “The poorest countries have received only a very small amount of produce from Ukraine under the UN-mediated grain deal, while the lion’s share of the exports have gone to European Countries.” An infographic done by Sputnik clearly showed where the grains went and surely, the poor nations were left holding the empty bag.**
So there was a need for a rework on the agreement specifically of the sanctions which affected Russia’s altruistic move. The Istanbul Accord should see to it that grains and fertilisers are delivered without the sanctions because it fails to complete its main objective: feeding the poor.
Lavrov emphasised that,” most of the vessels carrying Ukrainian grain did not sail to the poorest countries, while the financial and logistical obstacles created by the US and the EU to Russia’s exports of grain and fertilisers have not yet been removed fully.” Russia according to him is offering,” to hand over to African states 300,000 tons of fertilisers free of charge, but the EU is against this.”**