- Black Sea deal helps easing global food price crisis
- The UN-brokered deal is extended for four months
- Moscow wants removal of obstacles to grain, fertiliser exports
Nov 17 (Reuters) - A deal aimed at easing global food shortages by helping Ukraine export its agricultural products from Black Sea ports was extended for four months on Thursday, though Russia said its own demands were yet to be fully addressed.
The agreement, initially reached in July, created a protected transit corridor and was designed to alleviate shortages by allowing exports to resume from three ports in Ukraine, a major producer of grains and oilseeds.
"I welcome the agreement by all parties to continue the Black Sea grain initiative to facilitate the safe navigation of export of grain, foodstuffs and fertilisers from Ukraine," UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.
The UN, he said, was also "fully committed to removing the remaining obstacles to exporting food and fertilisers from (Russia)" - a part of the deal Moscow sees as critical.
Russia's foreign ministry confirmed the extension of the deal for 120 days starting from Nov. 18, without any changes to the current one.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that since Aug 1, more than 450 ships had carried 11 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain and other foodstuffs around the world.
"Tens of millions of people, primarily in African countries, have been saved from starvation ... food prices are significantly lower than they would be without our food exports," he said in a video address.
The export of Russian ammonia via a pipeline to the Black Sea has not yet been agreed as part of the renewal, two sources familiar with discussions told Reuters. But Russia would continue efforts to resume those exports, one of the sources added. Ammonia is an important ingredient in fertiliser.
Zelenskiy said in September he would only back the idea of reopening ammonia exports through Ukraine if Moscow handed back prisoners of war, an idea the Kremlin rejected.
"The renewal of the (deal) ... is good news for global food security and for the developing world," tweeted Rebeca Grynspan, secretary-general of the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development. "Solving the fertiliser crunch must come next."
The 120-day extension was less than the one-year sought by the United Nations and Ukraine. Russia said earlier this week that the current duration period of the deal seems "justified.".
GLOBAL FOOD PRICE CRISIS
A drop in Ukrainian shipments following Russia's invasion in late February played a role in the global food price crisis but other important drivers include the COVID-19 pandemic and continued climate shocks.
Since July, some 11.1 million tonnes of agricultural products have been shipped under the deal, including 4.5 million tonnes of corn and 3.2 million tonnes of wheat.
Chicago wheat prices fell following the news of the extension. The benchmark contract was down 2% and corn was down 1.3%.
"This is bearish for the market because it removes remaining doubts and we have something clear for the coming four months," one French trader said.
"However, the fact that it is only for four months ... means that uncertainty will resume in four months, with people wondering whether Russia will sign an extension or not."
Ukraine and Russia are major global grain exporters. Russia is the world's largest wheat exporter and a major supplier of fertilisers to global markets.
Since July, Moscow has repeatedly said its shipments of grain and fertilisers, though not directly targeted, are constrained because sanctions make it harder for exporters to process payments or to obtain vessels and insurance.
Moscow presumed that the Russian concerns related to easier conditions for its exports would be fully taken into account in coming months, its foreign ministry said.
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