KYIV, UKRAINE — During a visit to Ukraine on March 8, UN Secretary General António Guterres called for the renewal of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which is due to expire later this month amid reports that Russia does not intend to renew its participation.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative, proposed by the UN secretary-general and brought into operation following agreement between Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN last July, already has facilitated the export of 23 million tonnes of grain from Ukrainian ports. The agreement followed a five-month Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports after Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

The deal is due to expire in less than two weeks, after being extended last November, when a breakthrough was made on increasing the flow of Russian fertilizer that had been held up in European ports.

The deal, managed by a Joint Coordination Centre in Istanbul, has contributed to lowering the global cost of food and provided “critical relief to people, who are also paying a high price for this war, particularly in the developing world,” Guterres noted.

He reiterated that exports of Ukrainian, as well as Russian food and fertilizers, are essential to global food security and prices. He said it was critical for the initiative to continue beyond this month’s expiration.

Russia has signaled it is unhappy with aspects of the agreement, prompting grain traders to warn of potential risks to supplies, and the impact on global grain prices. Global wheat prices have fallen about 30% since the deal was signed in July. Before the Russian invasion, Russia and Ukraine accounted for 30% of the world’s wheat exports.

Entering its second year of war, Ukraine’s grain exports have tumbled to 31.8 million tonnes, down 27% so far for the 2022-23 season as Russia’s invasion grinds down agricultural production and infrastructure that previously contributed substantially to world markets.

Thevolume so farin 2022-23 included about 11.2 million tonnes of wheat, 18 million tonnes of corn and about 2 million tonnes of barley. Exports at the same stage of the previous season were almost 43.5 million tonnes.