Black Sea grain business remains elusive as ship inspections resume Ship’s crew

Reuters

By Pavel Polityuk

KIEV, April 19 (Reuters) – Inspections of vessels transporting Ukrainian grain from the Black Sea resumed on Wednesday under a United Nations-brokered deal, but Kiev said more time was needed to complete a to ensure that the initiative is extended.

Ukraine, which relies heavily on grain sales to fight the Russian invasion, and its allies blamed Moscow for the recent halt to ship inspections in the Bosphorus, which in turn has blamed Ukraine and the United Nations.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov wrote on Facebook that “ship inspections resume despite attempts by the RF (Russian Federation) to disrupt the agreement”.

The joint coordination center in Istanbul, which oversees operations, said “inspections are already underway.”

Talks to extend the Black Sea Grains Agreement beyond May 18 have failed to materialize, and Kiev’s grain exports are also constrained by import bans from three Eastern European countries.

The Black Sea Grains Initiative, achieved last July with the mediation of the United Nations and Turkey, has freed up three Ukrainian Black Sea ports five months after the Russian invasion.

It was designed to alleviate a global food crisis and support Ukraine, whose economy is heavily dependent on agricultural exports.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry accused Kiev without providing documentary evidence sabotage the deal by demanding bribes from shipowners to register ships and conduct inspections. Kiev did not immediately comment on the allegation.

Russia says it only committed to the initiative until May 18 and complains that a separate deal to facilitate its own agricultural and fertilizer exports has not been honored.

Ukraine’s Agriculture Minister Mykola Solsky told reporters talks would be held to extend the deal next month. However, Solsky made it clear that an immediate breakthrough was not expected, saying, “Let’s give them time.”

He did not give details of the talks. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is due argue the grain export agreement with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres next week in New York.

IMPORT BAN

Kiev is also trying to get agreement from three European Union member states in Eastern Europe to lift bans on Ukrainian grain and food products.

Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have imposed bans to protect their markets from an influx of cheaper supplies following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Bulgaria and Romania have said they could also take action.

Poland went further and banned not only the import but also the transit of Ukrainian grain through its territory. It agreed on Tuesday to lift the transit ban after talks with Kiev.

Large amounts of Ukrainian grain were trapped in Eastern and Central Europe as low global prices and demand meant grain could not be easily resold.

The shortages reduced prices and sales from local farmers and put political pressure on governments in the region.

The EU has criticized member states for imposing individual bans, and EU ambassadors were due to discuss the situation in Brussels later on Wednesday.

EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis was also scheduled to hold a video conference with trade ministers from Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia on Wednesday.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, has announced it is considering a second package of compensation payments for farmers after agreeing a €56 million ($61 million) first package for Bulgaria, Poland and Romania in late March had been.

($1 = 0.9130 euros)

(Additional reporting by Max Hunder in Kiev, Omer Berberoglu and Huseyin Hayatsever in Ankara, Guy Faulconbridhe in Moscow and Philip Blenkinsop in Brussels, writing by Timothy Heritage, editing by Barbara Lewis)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2023.

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