President William Ruto's administration on Tuesday, July 18, called out Russia for its decision to exit the Black Sea Grain Initiative, terming it as a major setback for global food security.
Through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Kenya Kwanza administration noted that, unlike the previous acrimonious stand-off in which Russia had blocked Ukrainian ships from going through the Black Sea, the new deal saw the vital commodities moved without major shipping challenges.
In particular, the Black Sea Grain Initiative had allowed Ukraine which is a major exporter of wheat and corn to Kenya and other African countries to supply their produce hence cushioning drought-stricken countries from hunger and malnutrition.
It was also noted that Russia's decision to pull out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative will significantly impoverish the international community since the Black Sea is a major shipping route for these commodities.
As such, Russia's decision may see some shipments blocked which is expected to drive up global food prices and make it more difficult for countries to obtain the food they need.
Principal Secretary Korir Sing'Oei noted that the impact of Russia's decision will be particularly devastating for countries in the Horn of Africa, which are already facing a severe drought.
"The decision by Russia to exit the Black Sea Grain Initiative is a stab in the back at global food security prices and disproportionately impacts countries in the Horn of Africa already impacted by drought," PS Sing'Oei.
While echoing the concerns which were raised by the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, Ruto's administration noted that Kenya and other countries are heavily reliant on imported food, and the rising prices will make it even harder for them to afford the food they need.
As a result, Guterres noted that millions of people in the Horn of Africa are at risk of hunger and famine. The UN boss noted that Russia's decision to exit the Black Sea Grain Initiative is a clear act of aggression against the global community.
"I deeply regret the decision by the Russian Federation to terminate the implementation of the Black Sea Initiative – including the withdrawal of Russian security guarantees for navigation in the northwestern part of the Black Sea.
"This Initiative has ensured the safe passage of over 32 million metric tons of food commodities from Ukrainian ports. The World Food Programme has shipped more than 725,000 tons to support humanitarian operations – relieving hunger in some of the hardest hit corners of the world, including Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa and Yemen," Guterres noted.
Guterres called the international community to condemn Russia's decision and work to find ways to get Ukrainian grain to market. He noted that the global community must also provide humanitarian assistance to the countries that are most affected by the rising food prices.
"The Black Sea Initiative -- together with the Memorandum of Understanding on facilitating exports of Russian food products and fertilizers -- have been a lifeline for global food security and a beacon of hope in a troubled world.
"At a time when the production and availability of food are being disrupted by conflict, climate change, energy prices and more, these agreements have helped to reduce food prices by over 23 per cent since March last year," Guterres stated.
The UN observed that with the decision to terminate the Black Sea Initiative, the Russian Federation also terminated its commitment to facilitate the unimpeded export of food, sunflower oil, and fertilizers from Ukrainian-controlled Black Sea Ports.
Russian decision comes against the backdrop of a heightened search for grains as the country seeks to import maize to fill in the local deficit due to famine.
The country is still reeling from the effects of a severe drought, which has caused crop yields to plummet. As a result, there is a shortage of maize, which is a staple food in Kenya.
In March 2023, the government announced that it was going to import 1 million tonnes of maize to help meet the shortfall. The maize was to be imported from various countries, including Zambia and Tanzania.
President Ruto noted that the import of maize is a short-term solution to the food crisis in Kenya since his government had also been working to address the long-term causes of the drought, such as climate change, deforestation and offering subsidised fertilizers to local farmers.
Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi, in March 2023, explained to the National Assembly Committee on Agriculture that importation of maize is a costly measure, but it is necessary to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.
At the time, Linturi noted that millions of people were already facing hunger, and the situation could worsen if the drought continued.
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