- Russia says all agreements are ready, in principle, for it to start shipping grain to African countries.
- Vladimir Putin has promised some African countries, including Zimbabwe, large free shipments of food.
- Russia’s deputy foreign minister Alexander Grushko said Turkey had agreed to act as a trans-shipment point.
Moscow proposed the arrangement after quitting a year-old deal in July that had permitted Ukraine to ship grain safely from its Black Sea ports in the hope of stemming a surge in global food prices exacerbated by Russia’s invasion.
Russia has sought to court African countries, some of which have been suffering food shortages, by offering them free or discounted grain – albeit far less than Ukraine had been exporting.
“All agreements in principle have been reached. We expect that in the near future we will enter into working contacts with all parties to work out all the technical aspects of the scheme for such deliveries,” Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko told reporters, according to the Russian news agency Interfax.
Turkey would handle onward export of the Russian grain but the details of its role were not clear.
Moscow says it quit the prior deal because the West has failed to remove obstacles to its own grain and fertiliser exports created by sanctions, but also complained that too little of the grain freed by the Black Sea deal was getting to the poorest countries.
Since pulling out of the deal, Russia has repeatedly attacked Ukrainian sea and river ports and grain stores, prompting Ukraine and the West to accuse it of using food as a weapon of war. Russia calls its campaign in Ukraine a “special military operation”.
Free grain for Russia
Russian president Vladimir Putin has promised to deliver, free of charge, 50 000 tonnes of grain to six African countries, including key South African export market Zimbabwe.
In 2020 and 2021 combined, South Africa exported less than 50 000 tonnes of wheat to Zimbabwe. In 2022, Zimbabwe bought a little under 60 000 tonnes from SA, making it the destination of 30% of SA’s total wheat exports that year.
The Russian shipment to Zimbabwe would be worth between R320 million and R500 million at current market prices.
Some 40% of South Africa’s agricultural exports stay within the African continent, but experts have recommended it seek growth in countries with growing populations and foreign cash reserves.Post published in: Business