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  • Writer's pictureTaher Tarraf

Another battleground in the food war is the Black Sea.

The withdrawal of Russia from the grain agreement in mid-July has led to a sharp escalation of tensions in the Black Sea region, potentially posing catastrophic implications for global food security.

According to Ukraine and its allies in the West, the safety of maritime trade in the Black Sea has been compromised since Russia's exit from a grain export deal last July. Consequently, Turkish mediation is intensifying its efforts to explore alternatives that could avert an impending food crisis, which is showing early signs of exacerbation.

Russia's grievances about the agreement stem from the fact that it allowed Ukrainian grain exports while suspending Russian exports. The Russian ambassador to Ankara highlights that the agreement also ensures access for Russian agricultural products and fertilizers to international markets, contingent upon the removal of Western sanctions.

A significant unmet goal for Russia is the reinstatement of its banking sector's participation in the international SWIFT network. This action would enable fund transfers, reinitiate product exports, and grant Russian businesses access to their overseas assets.

These demands from Moscow, which it claims the Western nations are hesitant to fulfill, have prompted Russia's response of targeting Ukrainian port infrastructure. It also regards formerly secure shipping passages in the Black Sea as contested areas of conflict.

In pursuit of alternative solutions, the Wall Street Journal reported that the United States is engaging in negotiations with Ukraine and the Turkish mediator to establish substitute trade routes. However, attempts have already been made to export Ukrainian wheat through other ports, such as Croatian ones, which have been described as problematic and costly.

Inescapably, the global market appears poised for a food crisis. In the prior month, the International Monetary Fund cautioned that Russia's withdrawal from the grain export agreement might result in a potential fifteen percent increase in grain prices. This concern is reinforced by U.S. estimates that predict a substantial drop in wheat stocks for the world's seven major exporters to the lowest level in sixteen years due to the impacts of severe climate changes. This makes nations reliant on wheat imports susceptible to price volatility and supply inadequacies.

Amid the dwindling production among exporting nations and the surplus in Russia's production, coupled with the Black Sea blockade, the question emerges: Can Moscow effectively enforce its strategy, leaving the Western nations with no recourse but to lift sanctions to avert the impending food crisis?

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