MOSCOW, RUSSIA – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on May 31 that Russia was prepared to facilitate “unhindered” grain exports from Ukrainian ports in coordination with Turkey, Reuters reported citing a Kremlin readout of Putin’s recent talks with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

The news offers some hope of curbing global food insecurity, which has increased sharply in recent months, in part because of the inability of Ukraine, one of the world’s largest grain exporters, to ship grain out of its ports after it was invaded by Russia in late February.

Ukraine is the top sunflower oil exporter and among the largest corn and wheat exporters. Without Ukraine’s grain shipments, and with Russian exports limited to some extent due to economic sanctions levied by countries opposing Russia’s military invasion, global grain and food prices have soared to record highs in recent months, with poorer countries that are highly dependent on Black Sea grain impacted the most.

Gro Intelligence, an organization that gathers and analyzes global food and agricultural data, estimates that price increases in major food crops year to date has made an additional 400 million people food insecure since the beginning of 2022. Sara Menker, chief executive officer of Gro Intelligence, told a special meeting of the United Nations Security Council on May 19 that global wheat inventories currently stand at about 10 weeks of global consumption.

Putin has asked that the economic sanctions be lifted against his country so that Russia, the world’s largest wheat exporter, can increase its agricultural shipments.

In the readout of Putin’s conversation with Erdogan, emphasis was placed on ensuring safe navigation in the Black and Azov seas and eliminating the mine threat in their waters, Reuters reported. Putin reportedly “noted the readiness of the Russian side to facilitate the unhindered sea transit of goods in coordination with Turkish partners. This also applies to the export of grain from Ukrainian ports."

Erdogan, one of the few world leaders who has maintained good relations with both Russia and Ukraine during the conflict, told Putin during the readout that Turkey was prepared to take on the role of third-party observer to ensure that the agreement was being followed by both sides once it is reached.