Live updates: Russia’s war in Ukraine

Turkey is “working hard” to extend a UN-backed initiative that has enabled Ukraine to export grain from ports blockaded by Russia following its invasion, its Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Sunday, according to the country’s state media Anadolu.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative brokered by the United Nations and Turkey last July in Istanbul, allows grain to be exported from Ukrainian ports.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned earlier this week that the current deal is set to expire March 18, and Russia has not agreed to extend the vital agreement. 

“We are working hard for the smooth implementation and further extension of the Black Sea grain deal,” Cavusoglu said in a speech at the United Nations Conference on Least Developed Countries being held in Doha, Qatar, Anadolu added.

Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said more than 22 million tons of food has been sent to over 43 countries through the initiative.

Russia said on Wednesday it will only agree to an extension if the interests of its own agricultural producers are taken into account, Reuters reported.

Some context: An extension to the deal is vital for the global food supply chain. In normal times, Ukraine – one of the globe’s breadbaskets – would export around three-quarters of the grain it produces. Together with Russia, it accounted for about one quarter of global wheat exports in 2019.

Currently, the world is grappling with one of the worst food crises in modern history, already shaken by extreme weather conditions and the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The Ukraine crisis has had this ongoing negative impact on world food prices and [added] even more volatility,” said Abby Maxman, CEO of Oxfam America. “The supply chains and how they flow to places like East Africa and the Horn of Africa are taking big hits.”

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