Kenya misses out on Russia's new grain export deal for Africa

By Brian Ngugi | Jul 31, 2023
A grain warehouse destroyed by a Russian drone strike is seen in a sea port, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Odesa Region, Ukraine, July 24, 2023. [Reuters]

Kenya has been dealt a blow after missing from among the first six countries that will benefit from a new food export deal announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin last week.

President Putin on Thursday told African leaders he would gift them tens of thousands of tonnes of grain within months despite Western sanctions, which he said made it harder for Moscow to export its grain and fertiliser.

Speaking at the Russia-Africa Summit in St Petersburg, Putin said Russia was expecting a record grain harvest and was ready to replace Ukrainian grain exports to Africa on both a commercial and aid basis to honour what he said was Moscow's critical role in global food security.

"We will be ready to provide Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, Central African Republic and Eritrea with 25-50,000 tonnes of free grain each in the next 3-4 months," he said.

"We will also provide free delivery of these products to consumers."

Kenya's food insecurity has worsened after Moscow ended a United Nations-backed Ukraine grain export deal nearly a year into the agreement, heightening uncertainty over global food supplies.

Kenya faulted Russia's withdrawal from the deal that allowed Ukraine to safely export grain through the Black Sea.

"The decision by Russia to exit the Black Sea Grain Initiative is a stab on (sic) the back at global food security prices and disproportionately impacts countries in the Horn of Africa already impacted by drought," Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Korir Sing'Oei said earlier this month.

During the Russia-Africa Summit attended by African leaders, but skipped by President William Ruto, Putin said that over 70 per cent of Ukrainian grain exported through the lapsed deal had gone to high or above-average-income countries, including the European Union while the poorest countries received less than three per cent of the shipments.

Ruto skipped the summit, choosing instead to be represented by the African Union, according to Hussein Mohamed, the President's spokesman.

"President William Ruto will not be personally attending the Russia-Africa summit; instead, he will be represented by organs of the Africa Union," Mr Mohamed said on Wednesday.

The prices of key food items have climbed significantly over the past couple of months, adding pressure on cash-starved households still reeling from the economic hit of the Covid-19 pandemic and inadequate rainfall last year that severely cut food supplies.

The Kenya Kwanza administration faces the uphill task of bringing living costs under control. Many Kenyan families around the country have increasingly found it difficult to put food on the table in the face of unprecedented high prices, and are looking to the government to soften the squeeze.

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