U.N. deal to transport Ukrainian grain helps the hungry

Photo of people standing in line holding empty bowls with text 'Putin’s war hurts hungry people worldwide' (Photo: © PreciousPhotos/Shutterstock.com)
(State Dept./M. Gregory)

Millions of tons of grain intended for hungry people worldwide could get stuck in Ukrainian ports if Russia fails to renew the U.N.’s Black Sea Grain Initiative.

The initiative, brokered by Türkiye and the United Nations in late July between Ukraine and Russia, has already moved more than 10 million metric tons of Ukrainian agricultural exports via the Black Sea. The deal expires November 19.

The initiative also has helped bring down food prices for the sixth consecutive month, according to the U.N.’s Food Price Index.

‘Weaponizing food’

The United Nations, NATO, European Union and U.S. government have all urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to renew the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

“The truth is we shouldn’t have to negotiate constantly with President Putin to allow food to get out to the world,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said November 4. “That’s why the international community is sending a clear message to Moscow that it should stop using hunger as a bargaining chip, and extend the grain deal long before it expires later this month.”

Moscow announced in late October that it would pull out of the deal, prompting Blinken to say “Russia is again weaponizing food in the war it started.” Russia then resumed participation but has not committed to extending the deal beyond November 19.

With U.S. funding, the U.N. World Food Programme has shipped Ukrainian wheat to the Horn of Africa and to Yemen — areas suffering severe droughts and conflicts.

Among other countries receiving Ukrainian food products are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Djibouti, India, Libya and Tunisia.


The U.N.’s Black Sea Grain Initiative website regularly updates vessel movements from Ukraine. The 10 million metric tons figure is as of November 3.

The grain initiative’s success is a bright spot as humanitarian officials warn that a global food crisis is worsening because of climate change, armed conflicts and supply chain disruptions from COVID-19.

“We urge all parties to make every effort to renew the Black Sea Grain Initiative,” the spokesperson for U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said in a October 28 statement, noting that “Governments, shipping companies, grain and fertilizer traders and farmers all over the world are now looking for clarity on the future.”

Guterres said November 2 he would continue “his engagement with all actors towards the renewal and full implementation of the initiative.”