Thursday, February 2, 2023
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UN cooperates in easing Russian fertilizer exports

European authorities and some Ukrainian neighboring countries have pledged another billion euros in support for the expansion and improvement of Ukraine's overland export corridors.

This allows Kyiv to transport agricultural products across the European mainland and makes it less vulnerable to Russian threats against shipping across the Black Sea. At the end of this week, the temporary agreement between Russia and Ukraine with the United Nations and Turkey on unhindered grain exports by sea expires.

 The European Commission, Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, together with the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the World Bank, have agreed on new financing. Brussels is keen to face the threat of famine in parts of Africa and the Middle East while supporting Kiev's agricultural sector.

 The announcement gives the project a major funding boost, with money to reduce waiting times for trucks and trains crossing from Moldova and Ukraine to Poland and Romania, mainly through repairs and development of road and rail infrastructure in Ukraine.

 Possible renewal of the Black Sea agreement is now being discussed on the very highest global stage, at the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia. There, UN chief Gutierrez and Russian minister Lavrov agreed that Western sanctions should not lead to disruption of the export of Russian agricultural products, food and fertilizer. The relaxation of the payment traffic block has already been discussed.

Just last weekend, the Russian Ministry of Agriculture announced that the grain harvest this year is hugely larger, and that Russia could double its grain aid to hungry African countries.

A separate UN deal promises the free flow of Russian fertilizer exports, but Moscow continues to complain of difficulties. Russia is currently having the most difficulty exporting its ammonia. It has no terminals in Russian ports to load it onto ships, so it has always relied on sending it to terminals in the Baltic countries and Ukraine via a pipeline, but that has been blocked after the Russian invasion of southern Ukraine. 

Last weekend, three seized shipments of Russian fertilizer from the ports of Rotterdam, Antwerp and Muuga (Estonia) were allowed to be shipped to Africa as part of a Russian deal with the UN. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the Kremlin is trying to "burden the West with the blame for the food crisis it has provoked in order to pressure us to lift the sanctions."

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