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Black Sea Grain Deal Extended

FILE - Workers load grain at a grain port in Izmail, Ukraine. Taken April 26, 2023.
FILE - Workers load grain at a grain port in Izmail, Ukraine. Taken April 26, 2023.

ANKARA - Russia agreed to extend a deal that has allowed Ukraine to ship grain through the Black Sea to parts of the world struggling with hunger, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Wednesday,

“I want to give a good news,” Erdogan said. “With the efforts of our country, the support of our Russian friends and the contribution of our Ukrainian friends, the Black Sea Grain Initiative has been extended by another two months.”

The breakthrough accord that the U.N. and Turkey brokered with the warring sides last summer came with a separate agreement to facilitate shipments of Russian food and fertilizer that Moscow insists hasn't been applied.

Russia had set a Thursday deadline for its concerns to be ironed out or had threatened to bow out. Such brinkmanship isn't new: With a similar extension in the balance in March, Russia unilaterally decided to renew the deal for just 60 days instead of the 120 days outlined in the agreement.

Extending the Black Sea Grain Initiative is a win for countries in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia that rely on Ukrainian wheat, barley, vegetable oil and other affordable food products, especially as drought takes a toll.

In talks last week in Istanbul, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said the grain deal “should be extended for a longer period of time and expanded” to "give predictability and confidence to markets."

Moscow has said it opposed such an expansion.

William Osnato, a senior research analyst at agriculture data and analytics firm Gro Intelligence, said there had been “bluster” coming from Russia to push for easing some sanctions because it's shipping record amounts of wheat for the season, and its fertilizers are flowing well, too.

With Ukraine's wheat harvest coming up in June and the need to sell that crop in July, maintaining a Black Sea shipping corridor is key to avoid “taking another large chunk of wheat and other grains off the market,” Osnato said.