NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK, US — United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is disappointed in the recent pace of agricultural shipments from Ukraine as part of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and called for an acceleration of exports, according to a UN spokesman.

The UN and Turkey brokered the Black Sea export agreement in July 2022 to help tackle a global food crisis that was worsened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Officials from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN make up a Joint Coordination Centre in Istanbul, which implements the deal. The initiative covers the “safe navigation for the export of grain and related foodstuffs and fertilizers, including ammonia” from the Ukrainian Black Sea ports of Odesa, Chornomorsk and Pivdennyi.

Food exports through the maritime humanitarian corridor have dropped “significantly” from a peak of 4.2 million tonnes in October 2022 to 1.3 million tonnes in May, the lowest volume since the Initiative began last year, said Farhan Haq, deputy spokesperson for the secretary-general.

“The secretary-general calls on the parties to accelerate operations and urges them to do their utmost to ensure the continuation of this vital agreement, which is up for renewal on July 17,” Haq said.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said last week that Russia was considering withdrawing from the Black Sea grain deal, which was renewed for 60 days on May 17.

The Black Sea deal also allows for ammonia shipments, but none have happened. Russia used to pump up to 2.5 million tonnes of ammonia annually to Pivdennyi port for global export, but the pipeline was shut down by the war, and earlier this month Russia accused Ukrainian forces of blowing up part of the pipeline.

Restarting the pipeline was one of several Russian demands made in talks to extend the Black Sea grain deal. Last month it began stopping vessels traveling to Pivdennyi port under the Black Sea grain deal until the ammonia pipeline was restarted.

While Russian exports of food and fertilizer are not subject to Western sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine, Moscow said restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance have amounted to a barrier to shipments.

“The UN is fully committed to supporting the implementation of both the Black Sea Initiative and the Memorandum of Understanding on Russian food and fertilizer exports so that exports of food and fertilizers, including ammonia, from the Russian Federation and Ukraine reach markets around the world safely and predictably,” Haq said. “This is especially critical now as the new grain harvest begins in both Ukraine and the Russian Federation.”

Slideshow: Depending on Russia, Ukraine for wheat