In this file photo dated Aug 3, 2022, a team of representatives from the Joint Coordination Center inspects on the first grain-laden ship leaving Ukraine on the northwestern entrance of the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, Türkiye. (PHOTO / XINHUA)
GENEVA/KYIV – Russia agreed to extend a Ukraine grain export deal by 60 days after talks with UN representatives in Geneva on Monday.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin announced the decision in a statement after leading a delegation to meet UN officials headed by Rebeca Grynspan, secretary-general of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths.
Russia "does not object to another extension of the 'Black Sea Initiative' after its second term expiration on March 18, but only for 60 days," Vershinin said. "Our further stance will be determined upon the tangible progress on normalization of our agricultural exports, not in words, but in deeds."
The deal signed in July 2022 and brokered by the United Nations and Türkiye allowed Ukraine, one of the world's key wheat producers and exporters, to ship food and fertilizer from three of its Black Sea ports.
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(Russia) does not object to another extension of the "Black Sea Initiative" after its second term expiration on March 18, but only for 60 days … Our further stance will be determined upon the tangible progress on normalization of our agricultural exports, not in words, but in deeds.
Sergey Vershinin, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister
The agreement has allowed the exports of 24 million metric tons of grain, and over 1,600 secure vessel voyages through the Black Sea, with 55 percent of food exports going to developing countries, according to the UN website.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pushed for the extension of the agreement during meetings with Ukrainian leaders in Kyiv last week. On Monday, he reaffirmed that the United Nations remains fully committed to the Black Sea Grain Initiative, as well as to efforts to facilitate the export of Russian food and fertilizer, according to a UN release.
Agricultural exports over $20 billion
Also on Monday, Taras Vysotsky, Ukraine's first deputy minister of agrarian policy and food, said the country's agricultural export is expected to remain at over $20 billion this year.
"We estimate the export potential at least at the level of the previous year – more than 20 billion dollars," Vysotsky said in an interview published on an official Youtube channel of the Agrarian Policy and Food Ministry.
In this file photo dated May 22, 2022, a man drives a tractor on a sunflowers field at a farm in southern Ukraine’s Odessa region. (PHOTO / AFP)
Ukraine's grain production, however, will drop this year as the country's farmers focus on planting oilseeds, he said.
The lower grain output in Ukraine may push global grain prices higher, Vysotsky added.
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According to the Ukrainian Agriculture Exports Association, the country's agricultural exports dropped by 16 percent to $23.4 billion last year.
The National Academy of Agrarian Sciences estimated earlier that Ukraine's grain production will drop by 37 percent to 34 million tons in 2023.