Ukraine and Russia have agreed to a UN-brokered deal on grain shipments out of the Black Sea that Turkey will oversee. Food supplies are badly needed around the world.
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Russia and Ukraine have signed an agreement to allow the export of millions of tonnes of grain from Black Sea ports that are now blocked due to war. The United Nations spent months brokering the deal with help from Turkey, which borders the sea routes. Ukrainian grain is a major source of food around the world and prices have risen as supplies have dwindled.
Joanna Kakissis from – is covering this deal from Kyiv. Hi Joanna.
JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.
SHAPIRO: So this agreement was signed today in Istanbul. What’s inside ?
KAKISSIS: So this agreement is supposed to free the passage of those millions of tons of cereals that you mentioned, as well as kitchen essentials like sunflower oil. And all of this is supposed to come from the Ukrainian port of Odessa and two smaller ports on the Black Sea. And remember, this is all happening as the Russians continue to bomb and bomb the rest of the country.
The agreement is a victory for Russia because Russia must link its own exports to the export of Ukrainian grain. For example, Russia is a major exporter of fertilizers, which several countries around the world desperately need to ensure high yields on their crops. Turkey will monitor the navigation and inspection of ships on the Black Sea, and it will try to maintain the safety of the shipping lanes. Turkey and the UN are going to be the mediators here.
SHAPIRO: And that could have major impacts in developing countries far beyond Russia and Ukraine. Tell us what the global consequences of this agreement might be.
KAKISSIS: Yeah. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine triggered a global food crisis. The UN has warned that people around the world are facing malnutrition, hunger and starvation because Ukrainian grain cannot get out of these ports. Ukraine is often described as the breadbasket of the world. The World Food Programme, which supplies food to places like Yemen and Afghanistan, gets nearly half of its grain from Ukraine. India gets most of its sunflower oil from Ukraine.
SHAPIRO: So how are the Ukrainians or you reacting to this deal?
KAKISSIS: So I am here in Kyiv. And everyone I’ve spoken to is very happy about it. You must remember that the Ukrainian economy was crushed by this war. And this deal, for them, is about keeping their economy alive. Two of the biggest industries in Ukraine are steel and agriculture, at least they were before the war. And they were basically shut down because of the Russian invasion.
I spoke with Ivan Slobodianyk, who is the executive director of the Ukrainian Farmers’ Congress. And it is also a grain producer.
IVAN SLOBODIANYK: (non-English language spoken).
KAKISSIS: And here he tells me that his biggest concern is that Russia is not honoring the agreement and that history has shown that the Russians do not keep their word. But he also has hope because outsiders – the UN, Turkey – are managing this deal. And he also hopes that the Russians are suffering too financially themselves to give up.
SHAPIRO: How does that actually take effect? What are the next steps?
KAKISSIS: So you might see token voyages of ships in the next few days, but expeditions might not be fully operational for a few weeks. You know, they have to sort out things like ship insurance. When shipments begin, the UN and Turkey are expected to inspect grain shipments loaded onto ships at Black Sea ports. They will also inspect ships returning to the area in case those ships have contraband or weapons. But the main objective will be to create safe corridors for ships because, remember, there is a war going on that could interfere with any shipping plans.
SHAPIRO: This is reporting by Joanna Kakissis from – from Kyiv, Ukraine. Thanks a lot.
KAKISSIS: You’re welcome, Ari.
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