United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Wednesday discussed the issue of fertilizers and food exports with Russian President Vladimir Putin, it was reported.
The Portugal-born Guterres said he focused his talks on the availability of the chemicals in short supply which might affect food production later this year. To remove the obstacles that still exist in relation to the export of Russian fertilizers is absolutely essential at the present moment, he explained. He added that it was necessary to facilitate Russia's food and fertilizer shipments to avert a global food crisis.
Guterres is brokering a deal with both Russia and Ukraine to secure exports through the Black Sea in a bid to prevent a global food crisis, for which a pipeline to transport ammonia from Russia to a Ukrainian Black Sea port needs to be reopened, the Financial Times had reported Tuesday.
Ammonia is a key ingredient in fertilizer production, with Russia accounting for 20% of global exports. A major pipeline transporting the chemical from Russia’s southwestern Samara region to the Ukrainian port was shut down following the start of hostilities between the two countries in late February. The pipeline can carry about 2.3 million tons of ammonia a year. Its closure contributed to a surge in fertilizer prices which have more than doubled in the past year.
“Talks are moving in the right direction and every effort is being made by all parties at every level to ensure a positive outcome,” the FT quoted UN trade official Rebeca Grynspan as saying.
Food exports from Ukraine and Russia have increased since a July 22 grain deal, but critically needed fertilizer exports from Russia are still down despite being covered by the agreement, with financing and shipping still issues, the United Nations explained. The agreement also included the UN’s commitment to helping lift international sanctions on Russian food products and fertilizers exports.
Putin has objected that after the deal “almost all the grain exported from Ukraine” went to the European Union instead of to developing countries.
Grynspan said Russia reported a 12% increase in food exports from June to July. But while there has been “important progress,” the U.N. is concerned about fertilizer exports needed by October and November, the latest for the northern hemisphere planting season, she said.
Fertilizers now are three times the price they were before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, Grynspan also said in a video press conference from Geneva.