REVIVING THE GRAIN DEAL
“We will be ready to consider the possibility of reviving the grain deal and I told Mr President about this again today – we will do this as soon as all the agreements on lifting restrictions on the export of Russian agricultural products are fully implemented,” Putin said.
He said Western claims that Russia had stoked a food crisis by suspending participation in the grain deal were incorrect as prices did not rise on its exit from the deal.
“There is no physical shortage of food,” Putin said.
While Russian exports of food and fertiliser are not subject to Western sanctions imposed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Russia exported record amounts of wheat last year, Moscow and agricultural exporters say restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance have hindered shipments.
“The West continues to block the supply of grain and fertilisers from the Russian Federation to world markets,” Putin said, adding that the West had “cheated” Russia over the deal because rich countries got more than 70 per cent of the grain exported under the deal.
Russia and Ukraine are two of the world’s key agricultural producers, and major players in the wheat, barley, maize, rapeseed, rapeseed oil, sunflower seed and sunflower oil markets.
Putin said Russia expected a grain harvest of 130 million tonnes this year of which 60 million tonnes could be exported.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday that he had sent Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov “a set of concrete proposals” aimed at reviving the deal.
One of Moscow’s main demands is for the Russian Agricultural Bank to be reconnected to the SWIFT international payments system. The EU cut it off in June 2022 as part of sweeping sanctions imposed in response to the invasion.
Putin said that a plan to supply up to 1 million tonnes of Russian grain to Türkiye at reduced prices for subsequent processing at Turkish plants and shipping to countries most in need was not an alternative to the grain deal.
He also said Russia was close to a deal with six African countries over a plan to supply Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, the Central African Republic and Eritrea with up to 50,000 tonnes of grain each free of charge.