SWITZERLAND — Commodity traders will have to wait a little longer for a deal extending the current grain export agreement between Russia and Ukraine to be implemented.

After reports emerged last week that progress had been made and Russia had committed to extending the grain export deal, Russian officials have come out to dispute the claims.

According to a  Reuters report, Russian officials say that no agreement is yet to be made to extend a deal allowing Ukraine to export grain via the Black Sea.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin, noted that talks in Geneva last week regarding the Black Sea Grain Initiative were useful but Russia wants access to world markets for its own food and fertilizer exports.

The original agreement, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in late July, has allowed the shipment of more than 9 million tonnes of grain and other food exports during the past three months.

It is set to expire on Nov. 19  creating fears that Russia could reintroduce a naval blockade that it had set up in February when to prevent the ships from leaving the Black Sea ports.

Vershinin also said there will be no progress in extending the agreement if a Russian state bank that finances the farm sector isn’t reconnected to the international SWIFT bank payments system which was cut off due to Western Sanctions.

A UN statement on Nov. 11 said the participants “remain engaged in the implementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and held constructive discussions on its continuation.”

Russia briefly suspended its participation in the deal on Oct. 29 after an attack on its Black Sea fleet but returned to it just four days later.

Finland to aid Ukraine grain shipments for Africa

Meanwhile, Finland has committed to supporting the grain shipments of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) from Ukraine to Somalia where more than 20 million people need food aid.

The Nordic country is allocating 15.7 million euros (US$16.03 million) in humanitarian assistance to the region.

About 7 million euros ($7.865 million) from the sum will be channeled through the WFP to help facilitate the transport of Ukrainian grain to Somalia.

“It is critically important that the shipping of grain from Ukraine to Horn of Africa can continue,” said Ville Skinnari, Finland’s minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade. “We support the World Food Programme in this.”

On the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic and the deleterious effects of climate change in some regions, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the WFP estimate that up to 222 million people could suffer from acute food insecurity in 53 countries.

The donation from Finland will be critical in sustaining the livelihoods of many in the Horn of Africa country which is in its fifth consecutive failed rainy season.

An extension of the grain export deal between Russia and Ukraine will however be key in ensuring that the objectives of Finland’s humanitarian efforts are realized.

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