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Türkiye Is “Working Hard” to Clinch Extension of Black Sea Grain Deal

Türkiye looks to extend the UN-backed Black Sea Grain Initiative, which allows grains, oilseeds, and fertilizers to be exported from three previously blockaded ports in Ukraine through a safe maritime humanitarian corridor into the Black Sea without interference from Russia.

April 14, 2023

Ankara is actively working to extend a United Nations–backed initiative that has enabled Ukraine to ship grain from ports blockaded by Russia following its invasion last year, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on March 5.

Last July’s Black Sea Grain Initiative allowed grains, oilseeds, and fertilizers to be exported from three Ukrainian ports through a safe maritime humanitarian corridor into the Black Sea without interference from Russia. The deal was renewed in November and is set to expire on March 18 unless all parties agree to an extension.

Russia has said it will not accept a renewal of the deal unless the interests of its own agricultural producers are taken into account. The grain deal brokered by Türkiye and the United Nations also allowed Russia to export food and fertilizers through the Black Sea without fear of sanctions. However, Moscow says restrictions on its payments, logistics, and insurance industries are a “barrier” to its ability to export its own grains and fertilizers. 

The Russian naval blockade cut off Ukrainian exports, blocking 20 million tons of grains from leaving Ukrainian ports and triggering a steep rise in prices for farm goods. Wheat importers in Africa and the Middle East were especially hard hit.

After the agreement was signed, a Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) was set up in Istanbul to ensure the safe transport of agricultural products leaving Ukraine. One of the challenges was the lack of standardization among Russia, Ukraine, and Türkiye. The JCC, staffed by Russian, Ukrainian, Turkish, and UN personnel, developed a set of unified standards that apply to all three countries and that ensure the production of higher-quality grains that meet the health and safety standards required for international trade.

More than 23 million tonnes of grains and other foodstuffs have been exported via the three Ukrainian ports—Chornomorsk, Odesa, and Yuzhny/Pivdennyi—since the deal kicked in. About 49% of the cargo was maize/corn, 28% wheat, and 11% sunflower oil and meal. Most of the wheat exported through the initiative (65%) has been shipped to developing nations, according to the European Union.

Çavuşoğlu told the United Nations Conference on Least-Developed Countries being held in the Qatari capital Doha that his government is “working hard for the smooth implementation and further extension of the Black Sea grain deal.” He said he has discussed the extension efforts with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

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