Guterres says UN working to get Russian food to markets

The UN secretary-general says obstacles must be removed to Russian food and fertiliser exports, which are not sanctioned.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres arrives at a boat to sail a ship carrying Ukrainian grain, at Zeyport in Istanbul, Turkey.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul, Turkey [Murad Sezer/Reuters]

The United Nations is working with the United States and European Union to overcome obstacles to Russian food and fertilisers reaching world markets, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said.

“Without fertiliser in 2022, there may not be enough food in 2023. Getting more food and fertiliser out of Ukraine and Russia is crucial to further calm commodity markets and lower prices for consumers,” Guterres said on Saturday during a visit to Istanbul, where he visited a coordination centre overseeing the exports.

While more than 650,000 tonnes of grain and other food have left Ukraine’s Black Sea ports since a UN-brokered export deal was agreed in Turkey last month, Guterres said Russian produce was also crucial.

“The other part of this package deal is the unimpeded access to the global markets of Russian food and fertiliser,” Guterres said.

Western sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine do not apply to food and fertilisers, but they have, nonetheless, had a chilling effect on exports.

Guterres said the UN was working with Washington and the EU to remove a number of obstacles, including to shipping, insurance and finance.

Russia and Ukraine accounted for around a third of global wheat exports before Russia’s February 24 invasion, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”. Russia is also a major exporter of fertiliser.

Guterres travelled to Ukraine this week to meet the presidents of Ukraine and Turkey, Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the western city of Lviv.

The three leaders also discussed the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and “the need for a political solution to the conflict”.

He headed to the southern city of Odesa on Friday, one of three ports from which food shipments have been departing since August 1.

All vessels must use a safe corridor to travel in the Black Sea and then be inspected by the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) before being allowed to cross the Bosphorus Strait.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies