Security of the Black Sea as a guarantee of food security of the world. What and how can become its guarantor and how to achieve this?
This was discussed by experts, representatives of the government and farmers at the discussion panel “The safety of the Black Sea – as a guarantee of the world’s food security.” What and how can become its guarantor”, which was organized by the National Interests Advocacy Network “ANTS”.
Ukraine needs its own maritime strategy
“I am glad that this topic has finally started to be heard. It seems to me that Ukraine did not fully realize before the beginning of the great war how important the seas are for us, how important we are for the world. We feed a lot of low-income countries in Africa and Asia. When it became clear that we cannot export and feed 400 million people, I expected that there would be a huge migration flow from Africa and Asia to Europe. And this could become an additional factor of destabilization, including in Europe and America. Fortunately, this did not happen, because we have a grain initiative that still allows for export, said Yuliya Klymenko, People’s Deputy of Ukraine, First Deputy Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Transport and Infrastructure, Co-Chairman of the MFI “Maritime Economy and Safety”.
According to her, so that similar situations do not repeat themselves in the future, Ukraine needs a maritime strategy.
“Unfortunately, in 30 years we have not made our maritime strategy. We have always been not a maritime country, but a country by the sea. They didn’t use their maritime potential to expand economic opportunities. 60% of our foreign exchange earnings come through the ports. And we can increase it. Sea logistics is the cheapest in any case. Therefore, for us, as a country, it is necessary first of all to decide on a maritime strategy, to become a maritime state… There is a group of deputies who support the maritime economy and security, and deal with it systematically. And we will continue to promote Ukraine as a maritime state and, at the legislative level, do everything to clear our sea coasts from our northern neighbor. We are the second largest country in the Black Sea region by the length of the coast, and we must be like that and dictate our role.”
Without Ukrainian grain, the global balance of grain production and consumption will be disrupted
Ukraine is an important player in the international grain market. It is one of the guarantors of food security in the world and has the potential to increase the production and export of grain.
“In particular, according to the results of the 2019/2020 marketing year, Ukraine took second place overall in the volume of exports of all grain crops. This is about 27% of sunflower seeds, 5% of barley, 3% each of wheat and rapeseed, and 2% of corn. The main buyers of Ukrainian grain were the countries of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The UN recognized that without Ukrainian grain, the global balance of grain production and consumption would be disrupted, therefore it was critically important for the world to unblock Ukrainian seaports and ensure the safe passage of ships with grain through the Black Sea. However, despite the Grain Agreement, the implementation mechanism of which allows the aggressor to limit trade in the Black Sea, the Black Sea continues to be dangerous, and maritime trade is significantly limited. Even U.S. drones are subject to military aggression, so the only way to restore safe shipping is the demilitarization of the Black Sea by Ukraine, which is impossible without appropriate weaponry,” stressed Ilya Neskhodovskyi, head of the «ANTS» analytical department.
Pavlo Lakiychuk, head of security programs of the Strategy XXI Center, captain of the first rank, emphasized that when we talk about food security in the world, about Ukraine’s participation in it, we should talk, first of all, about freedom of navigation.
“Because neither road, railway, nor air transport will replace sea transport. One cannot talk about freedom of navigation in wartime. This is nonsense. The Black Sea, like our air alarms, has been red-red for almost a year. The russians closed it to free navigation. The grain corridor and the grain initiative are not freedom of navigation.”
Russia terrorizes Ukrainian ships
Bohdan Ustymenko, an expert in international maritime law and water navigation, emphasized that the detention of ships with grain heading from the ports of Ukraine to the world ocean and those entering the sea continues.
“Therefore, there can be no question of any safety of navigation, freedom of navigation. At the same time, the russian federation very brazenly transports missiles with the help of a supposedly merchant fleet. All this is clearly visible with the help of satellites and other special equipment.”
In his opinion, the foreign policy departments of the states do not respond properly to the following facts:
“Certain explanations must be given to the Republic of Turkey. Because it depends solely on the political will of the Turkish government whether these vessels, supposedly commercial, with russian missiles will pass and supply the russian army with weapons,” he noted.
The expert also emphasized that the fact that the russian federation considers the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov to be its internal water bodies is unacceptable.
“Furthermore, in this naval doctrine, the russian federation allows itself to use force in the Bosphorus and Dardanelles… In fact, russia has historically been fighting for the Bosphorus and Dardanelles for 300 years. And the domination over them became one of the reasons for the First World War. And if, God forbid, Ukraine falls, then this creeping naval occupation of the Russian Federation will continue. Therefore, if the West does not give us a sufficient number of weapons, and the russian federation wins, then it will probably occupy the Snake Island and will demand a review of the sea border with Romania and even Bulgaria. This will inevitably lead to a full-scale war between NATO and the russian federation. And most likely, this war will start over the sea borders.”
The grain corridor must work
The grain initiative must continue to work, because there is no alternative to sea routes. The extension of the grain corridor, which is expected in the coming days, will give a positive signal to the market before the spring sowing campaign, while the agreement should be extended for at least 120 days, not 60, as required by the Russian federation.
Let us remind you that the Grain initiative started working in the summer of 2022. It was a political agreement between Ukraine, the UN and Turkey. Turkey and the UN, in turn, signed an agreement with russia.
“Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion and active shelling by the aggressor, our export by sea was completely stopped, because russia threatened shelling, accordingly it stopped the companies, no one wanted to take risks. When the sea stopped, the question arose: how to survive, because 90% of what we exported went by sea. Alternative routes were not as effective. We understood that the main part can be exported only by the sea, – says Deputy Chairman of the All-Ukrainian Agrarian Council Denys Marchuk. – Therefore, when representatives of diplomacy and our Armed Forces, who hit the cruiser “Moscow”, made it possible to partially free the passage through the Zmiiny Peninsula, it was a transitional stage. Then they began to talk more actively and realistically about export by sea. Because, in fact, agricultural producers sat with their crops for half a year and did not have the opportunity not only to sell and support families and communities, but also to pay taxes. And this is difficult, considering that there is a war and funds are needed. But since August 1, traffic through the seaports began, which gave hope”.
According to Marchuk, the first months of work were intensive and important.
«In October, we managed to reach a certain pre-war level, because about 4 million tons were exported from the ports of Great Odesa. And taking into account alternative ways, 6.5 million tons came out. For us as producers of goods, this was a signal that the winter campaign was about to start and we needed to sow».
russia’s food terrorism must be stopped
“As soon as the russian federation announced changes in the “grain agreement”, initiating a reduction in its validity period to 60 days, it immediately suspended certain contracting and conclusion of forward contracts for grain producers. Any information related to the deal has a major impact on the market: ship freight prices rise, traders lock in commodity prices and stop contracting for future deliveries. By the way, some farmers have stocks of not only last year’s grain, but also grain of the 2021 harvest. That is why the stable operation of the “grain corridor” is very important.
Turkey and the UN are on Ukraine’s side regarding the continuation of the “grain agreement”
According to Olga Trofimtseva, ambassador on special assignment of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, chairman of the board of the Assembly of Agrarian Chambers of Ukraine, president of the Ukrainian Agri-Food Platform, Turkey cannot but support Ukraine in the continuation of the “grain agreement”, because it has an economic interest in the Black Sea Initiative.
According to her, Turkey at the ministerial level is solving issues with both Russia and Ukraine regarding the extension of the agreement for 120 days.
“Regarding the fact that russia uses ships to transport weapons, we also talk about it in open sources and in communication with international partners.”
In addition, Turkey is helping to reveal the facts of the export of stolen grain by the russians from Ukrainian ports.
“This is difficult work, sometimes scary and unpleasant, in the sense that it requires constant attention, contact and difficult communications with all partners. But on the other hand, we are observing the recording of all these moments and reporting clearly from the position that russia is engaged in terrorism in the Black Sea basin, including food terrorism,” Trofimtseva said.
She noted that during the negotiations on the continuation of the “grain agreement”, russia wants to “bargain” for itself the easing of financial sanctions regarding the export of agricultural products and fertilizers.
“Our position is unchanged – there can be no concessions, no reaction to blackmail from russia. We stand our ground. And I’m glad that all partners support us in this,” Trofimtseva stressed.
Ukraine is not threatened by famine, but the export potential will decrease
As the Deputy Chairman of the All-Ukrainian Agrarian Council, Denys Marchuk, emphasized, farmers will sow the fields and harvest crops, so Ukraine is definitely not threatened by hunger.
“But there is a key issue – increasing the export potential. We have de-occupied territories, we know there are problems in Kherson region, Mykolaiv region, and Kharkiv region. For example, now that the south of Odesa is working, Kherson could also sow its areas, which would give the country foreign currency income, thanks to the export of products, but they cannot do this. There are mined or shell-strewn areas and their use depends on how much they can be prepared for. Many hope to sow in April, because there is an assurance from the relevant services that at least 30% of the territories will be cleared. However, of course, exports will be smaller.”
He emphasized that now it is important to turn to international partners, so that at the moment when we defend our independence and continue to export, they help Ukrainians in demining agricultural lands.
“If we manage to attract financing and equipment in the near future. If international demining groups help us, it will be an indicator of better work and increase our export potential,” said Denys Marchuk.
The discussion was initiated by the National Interests Advocacy Network “ANTS” and the Ukrainian Victory Center, with the support of the Ukrainian Media Center.