By Guy Faulconbridge
MOSCOW, April 7 (Reuters) – Russia warned the West on Friday that Ukraine would have to export grains overland if obstacles to its grain and fertilizer exports were not removed, and Moscow was working outside the landmark UN-brokered grain export deal .
The Black Sea Grains Agreement is a United Nations attempt to alleviate a food crisis that predated the Russian invasion of Ukraine but was exacerbated by Europe’s deadliest war since World War II.
The deal, first signed by Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations in July last year and renewed twice, allows exports of food and fertilizers, including ammonia, from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports of Odessa, Chornomorsk, Yuzhny/Pivdennyi.
While the West hasn’t imposed sanctions on Russia’s food and fertilizer exports, Moscow says they are compromised by obstacles — like insurance and payment hurdles — that it says must be removed.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said if the West does not want to be honest about what UN Secretary-General António Guterres intended with the deal, then Ukraine must use land and river routes for export.
If the West continues to refuse to remove obstacles to Russian exports, Moscow will bypass the grain deal, Lavrov told a news conference in Ankara alongside his Turkish counterpart.
“If they have no desire to honestly approach what Mr. Guterres proposed and so persistently promoted, then they should continue to ship related products from Ukraine by land, rail and river,” Lavrov said.
“And we will also work outside the framework of this initiative if necessary. We have the opportunity to do this with Turkey and with Qatar – the presidents have discussed such plans,” Lavrov said.
Russia and Ukraine are two of the most important producers of agricultural commodities in the world and major players in the markets for wheat, barley, corn, rapeseed, rapeseed oil, sunflower seeds and sunflower oil. Russia also dominates the fertilizer market.
Russia’s Agriculture Ministry on Friday set its grain harvest plan for 2023 at 120 million tons, Interfax reported, citing a draft statement.
Since it was signed, the 120-day grain deal has been extended twice, once in November and a second time in March, although Russia said the March extension was only 60 days long.
Russia has repeatedly said that any further expansion of the grain deal will require the West to meet a variety of its demands, including reconnecting the Russian Agricultural Bank (Rosselkhozbank) to the SWIFT payment system.
Other demands include resuming deliveries of agricultural machinery and parts, lifting restrictions on insurance and reinsurance, access to ports, resuming the Togliatti-Odessa ammonia pipeline and releasing assets and accounts of Russian companies involved in food and fertilizer exports are involved.
(Editing by Jason Neely and Barbara Lewis)
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