The deal on the export of Ukrainian grain from the Black Sea region has been extended

An agreement allowing Ukraine to export grain to world markets by sea despite Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea has been extended, the UN, as well as the governments of Ukraine and Turkey, said Saturday.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative, agreed in July under UN auspices and brokered by Turkey, has allowed Ukraine to ship 25 million tons of grains and edible oils, easing pressure on global food prices.

Oleksandr Kubrakov, Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine in charge of infrastructure, tweeted that the agreement has been extended by 120 days.

However, Moscow indicated that it had only agreed to a 60-day delay. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova re-published a letter it sent to the UN earlier this week, saying it was ready to extend beyond 60 days only if there was “tangible progress” in unblocking Russian food flows and fertilizers to world markets.

The UN confirmed that the deal had been extended but did not specify for how long, nor did Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“The grain corridor deal was supposed to expire today,” Erdogan said in a speech in the Turkish city of Channakale, Reuters reported. “As a result of our negotiations with the two parties, we have achieved an extension of this deal.”

The original agreement, struck last year, specified that it would be automatically extended by 120 days if neither party objected. Ukraine, Turkey and the UN supported a full extension. Kyiv says the 60-day extension creates too much uncertainty for grain dealers and shippers.

The deal was renewed once in November. It allows the export of commercial food products and fertilizers, including ammonia, from three Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea – Odessa, Chornomorsk and Yuzhny / Yuzhny.

The Kremlin pushed for a pipeline to pump ammonia, a fertilizer feedstock, from Tolyatti in central Russia to Odessa for export. He also demanded the relaxation of Western restrictions on the export of Russian grains, although they are not subject to sanctions.

This initiative has become a lifeline for Ukrainian farmers and grain traders because alternative export routes by rail and river barges have much lower capacity and are much more expensive.

The ships are moving out of authorized ports to avoid mines and then follow the agreed humanitarian corridor south towards Turkey.

Ukrainian officials have complained that Moscow is undermining the deal by ordering its officials to drag out checks on Ukrainian ships as they leave the Black Sea for the Bosphorus. Kyiv said Russian inspectors were ordered to work fewer hours and longer hours on each ship, delaying dozens of ships for weeks.

“The Black Sea Grain Initiative, along with a memorandum of understanding to promote Russian food and fertilizers to world markets, are critical to global food security, especially for developing countries,” the UN said.

“We remain firmly committed to both agreements and call on all parties to redouble their efforts for their full implementation.”