The UN-brokered Black Sea Initiative, also known as the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which is a year now, has made a significant impact on global food security. Since its signing in July 2022, the initiative, agreed upon by Russia, Türkiye, Ukraine, and the UN, enabled the export of millions of tonnes of grain and other food commodities from Ukrainian ports.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative has played an indispensable role in ensuring food availability worldwide, said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE BLACK SEA GRAIN INITIATIVE
Over the course of nearly one year, the Black Sea Grain Initiative has facilitated the export of more than 32 million tonnes of food commodities from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports to 45 countries across three continents. This partial resumption of Ukrainian sea exports has unblocked crucial food supplies, leading to a reversal in spiking global food prices that reached record highs prior to the agreement.
The initiative also allowed the World Food Programme (WFP) to transport over 725,000 tonnes of wheat to countries such as Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen, providing vital assistance to people in need. In 2022, Ukraine supplied more than half of the WFP’s wheat grain, a trend that continued in 2023.
CONTRIBUTING TO GLOBAL FOOD PRICE STABILITY
Although global food commodity prices experienced a decline, several factors influence food affordability and domestic food inflation, including exchange rates. The Black Sea Initiative played a role in reconnecting Ukrainian foodstuffs to global supply chains, contributing to lower prices on world markets. The FAO Food Price Index, which stood at 140.6 in July 2022 when the initiative was unveiled, has since dropped by 11.6% to reach 122.3 points in June 2023. The FAO Cereal Price Index has also fallen by 14% during the same period, thanks in part to increased global supplies facilitated by the initiative.
CONTINUATION OF THE BLACK SEA INITIATIVE
The Black Sea Initiative should continue to ensure uninterrupted flow of Ukrainian produce to global markets and help stabilize prices. Disruptions in food supplies have far-reaching effects on the lives of millions, especially the most vulnerable, impacting areas such as health, education, and social cohesion. The initiative has allowed for the partial resumption of vital food supplies, providing Ukrainian farmers with predictability in production and harvest and revitalizing key shipping lanes.
HUMANITARIAN AND COMMERCIAL ASPECTS
The primary aim of the Black Sea Initiative is to facilitate exports from Ukrainian sea ports, enabling Ukrainian crops to be sold worldwide, including to countries facing food insecurity. While exports may reach low-income countries in Africa and elsewhere, the initiative does not dictate specific destinations. Exports to any country, regardless of wealth, help stabilize global markets and mitigate food price inflation. Furthermore, the initiative has directly supported humanitarian efforts by WFP, with Ukraine being a significant supplier of wheat grain for their operations. Renewal and
DURATION OF THE INITIATIVE
The Black Sea Initiative was initially set for 120 days starting on July 22, 2022. However, it was subsequently renewed for another 120 days on November 18. Russia agreed to a 60-day extension pending review on March 17, but confirmed its participation for another 60 days on May 18. The agreement is now due for renewal on July 17. The UN calls for the initiative to be implemented and extended for as long as necessary to ensure safe and cost-effective transportation of food from Ukraine using the Black Sea route.
CHALLENGES AND RECENT DECLINE IN EXPORTS
Recent months have seen a significant decline in food exports through the initiative due to slower inspections and the exclusion of the Yuzhny/Pivdennyi port. The pace of inspections has decreased, with the daily average falling below five in April, May, and June 2023, compared to a record high of 11 inspections per day in October 2022. Monthly exports peaked at 4.2 million metric tonnes in October 2022 but dropped to 1.3 million metric tonnes in May 2023.
AMMONIA EXPORTS AND UN’S ROLE
Exports of fertilizers, including ammonia, are critical for agricultural production and global food security. The initiative allows for the export of fertilizer, but to date, no ammonia has been exported. The resumption of ammonia exports depends on the repair of the damaged pipeline from Togliatti in Russia to the Ukrainian port of Yuzhny/Pivdennyi. The UN Secretary-General emphasizes the importance of increased fertilizer and ammonia supplies for global food security.
INSPECTIONS, IMPLEMENTATION, AND EXPORT DISPARITIES
The Black Sea Initiative is implemented through the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) in Istanbul. It is responsible for facilitating the safe passage of commercial vessels carrying grain, foodstuffs, and fertilizers. The JCC conducts joint inspections to ensure authorized cargo and crew. However, the initiative focuses on Ukrainian ports, and exports from Russian ports are not addressed. The UN works with all parties to address operational challenges and secure consensus on measures that address concerns effectively.
In summary, the Black Sea Initiative has made significant progress in enhancing global food security by facilitating the export of Ukrainian food commodities. Its continuation is crucial for maintaining stable food prices and ensuring uninterrupted food supplies. Challenges remain, and efforts are ongoing to address operational issues and secure agreements that benefit all parties involved.