War in Ukraine, uncertainty remains over grain exports

Can they pass? They are twelve ships loaded with cereals to have to leave the Ukrainian coast this Monday, October 31 to take a humanitarian maritime corridor towards Turkey according to the Joint Coordination Center (JCC). The latter is responsible for overseeing the agreement on grain exports via the Black Sea which was signed by Russia and Ukraine under the aegis of the United Nations on July 22, thanks to mediation by Turkey.

Problem: Russia suspended this agreement on Sunday, justifying its decision by a drone attack on Russian boats in Crimea. In fact, Moscow announced its withdrawal ” until further notice “ ship inspections. A Russian delegation took part in Istanbul in the inspections of vessels transporting Ukrainian cereals within the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) and alongside Ukrainian, Turkish and United Nations inspectors.

These inspections, provided for by the agreement, must ensure that the outgoing cargo from Ukraine corresponds to that which was declared by the boat. The agreement concerned exclusively the transport of cereals. Note that these inspections also take place on boats heading for Ukraine to check that their holds are empty.

More inspectors

For now, Turkey and the UN have decided to strengthen their human resources. “It has been proposed that the Turkish and UN delegations provide ten inspection teams tomorrow (…) This inspection plan was accepted by the Ukrainian delegation. The delegation of the Russian Federation has been informed”detailed the JCC.

“By announcing its withdrawal from inspections, Russia insists a little more on the obsolete side of the agreement since these controls were one of its essential elements, notes Sébastien Abis, researcher at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (Iris) and director of Club Demeter. Moscow can absolutely say tomorrow that these inspections to and from Ukraine have no value. »

According to this specialist, however, it is still too early to know how far Moscow can go and how far it can raise the tension. “Russia can certainly board ships but it also takes international risks”he points.

Shipments of some 10 million euros

The Russian decision to freeze the agreement seems to him in any case to be part of a general strategy around the agricultural threat. Russia loses a little on the ground and tries again to weaken Ukraine by the agricultural side of its economy, explains Sébastien Abis. At the same time, it geopolises a little more its grain hold on international markets since it offers to deliver grain, even free of charge, to the poorest countries. And it is true that it has considerable volumes. »

So far, the deal has seen the export from Ukraine of 9-10 million tonnes since July. To be compared, however, with the seven million tons exported by sea each month before the war. According to the JCC, 40% of shipments were destined for developing countries. “Even with the agreement, some traders, shipowners or insurers were reluctant to face the risks involved, says Sébastien Abis. It will be even more so. It must be said that the cargo of a boat loaded with 30,000 tonnes of cereals, at 350 € per tonne, represents some 10 million euros. »

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