Ukraine Black Sea export corridor deal extended for at least 60 days

The Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI) allowing food exports from Ukraine’s deep sea ports was extended on Saturday, the day it was due to expire, the United Nations (UN) said on 18 March.

However, the UN did not specify for how long the deal had been extended for.

Russia had indicated a few days beforehand that it would only agree to a 60-day extension, with any further extension beyond mid-May dependant on the removal of some Western restrictions.

The BSGI was brokered with Russia and Ukraine by the UN and Turkey in July last year and renewed for 120 days in November to allow “facilitation of the safe navigation for the exports of grain and related foodstuffs and fertilisers - including ammonia - from designated Ukrainian seaports [Odessa, Chornomorsk and Pivdennyi]”, the UN said.

The aim was to combat a global food crisis that was fuelled in part by Russia's 24 February invasion of Ukraine and its subsequent Black Sea ports blockade, Reuters wrote on 18 March.

The two countries are key global suppliers of grains and oilseeds, with Russia also a top exporter of fertiliser.

To persuade Russia to approve the BSGI, the UN had struck a three-year deal in July to help Russia with its food and fertiliser exports, Reuters said.

While food and fertiliser are not among the products Western powers have imposed sanctions on, Moscow said restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance industries were a barrier.

In a 16 March letter to UN officials and posted on Twitter on 18 March, Russia's UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said restrictions needed to be lifted on insurance and access to ports for Russian ships and cargo. A pipeline that delivered Russian ammonia to a Ukrainian Black Sea port needed to be restarted, and the accounts and financial activities of Russian fertiliser companies should be unblocked. He also said the Russian Agricultural Bank should be allowed to return to the SWIFT banking system and the supply of agricultural machinery and spare parts to Russia should be allowed.

Ukraine's agriculture minister Mykola Solsky insisted on Saturday that the Black Sea export pact had been extended for 120 days and was an opportunity to keep helping those in need and "save the world from hunger", according to the Reuters report.

The UN said that since the BSGI, 25M tonnes of grains and foodstuffs had been shipped to 45 countries and global food prices – which had skyrocketed in March 2022 – had calmed.