Ukraine grain deal extended for two months: Erdogan

Ukrainian wheat destined for Ethiopia

A UN-chartered ship loaded with 23,000 tonnes of Ukrainian wheat destined for Ethiopia. PHOTO | HUGH RUTHERFORD | WFP VIA AFP

Istanbul. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday announced a two-month extension of a UN-backed deal under which Ukraine ships grain across the Black Sea to global markets.

"With the efforts of our country, the support of our Russian friends, the contribution of our Ukrainian friends, it was decided to prolong the Black Sea grain deal for two more months," Erdogan announced one day before the deal was due to expire.

Russia agreed not to block ships from leaving two Ukrainian harbours, Erdogan said, expressing his hope that the deal would be "beneficial for all the parties".

He thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for their roles in extending the agreement.

Ukraine was one of the world's major grain exporters before Russia invaded in February of last year.

Russian warships blockaded Ukraine's Black Sea ports, sending food prices skyrocketing on global markets and disproportionately hitting the world's poorest.

Turkey and the United Nations first brokered a deal between the warring parties in July 2022, which created safe corridors for the export of Ukrainian produce to assuage the crisis.

But the agreement has periodically come under threat since then as Russia and Ukraine struggled to agree on renewing it before expiration deadlines.

Ukraine's attempt to export more of its agricultural produce by land has caused friction with neighbouring EU countries where farmers said the price of their produce was being undercut.