How UN is trying to fix global fertiliser crisis

Loaders carry fertilizer [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

As much as many believe it is war between Russia and Ukraine that skyrocketed the cost of fertiliser and wheat, this may not necessarily be the case.

The Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the United Nations (UN) Barbara Woodward while giving a virtual brief on the latest efforts to resume grain exports out of Ukraine said nothing is stopping Russia from exporting its grain or fertiliser except its own policies and actions. It apears that Russia had self-imposed restrictions on exports of its agricultural products.

Since February, Russia has implemented export restrictions, including bans, quotas, and other restrictions on products such as barley, corn, rye, soybeans, sunflower seeds and oil and wheat.

Woodward said the cost of food is exempted from sanctions and Russia has been able to export food overseas. 

According to Woodward, the sanctions regime in its original construction was specifically designed to exclude food and fertiliser. 

“Russia has not been exporting fertiliser because of its self-imposed ban on exports they decided along with Canada not to export fertiliser. So this has nothing to do with sanctions at all, this has to do with the decision Russia took not to export fertiliser. It has had a huge impact on farmers and the planting seasons across the world,” said Woodward.

She added: “We do not want any perceived restrictions, even though there are no actual restrictions, but perceived restrictions – from permitting the trade in those goods and getting them to the populations in the world that need them.”

In Kenya, The National Treasury and the Ministry of Agriculture blamed the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine which entered its fifth month July on surging food and fuel prices.

National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani said the Government responded to these challenges by taking measures to reduce the cost of doing business to waiver taxes, fees and charges on maize and animal feeds imported.

These interventions included fertiliser subsidy kitty of Sh3 billion in April and June to cushion farmers from high prices, with a 50kg of the commodity going for an average of Sh6,500.

Woodward noted that there is a small ray of hope as officials from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN agreed on a plan to resume exports of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea.

Safe corridors from the Ukrainian ports

The deal between the four parties has four elements and will see the Ukrainian grain exports blocked by Russia, get to various destinations, raising prospects for an end to a standoff that has exposed millions to the risk of starvation.

The parties agreed that there will be safe corridors from the Ukrainian ports across the Black Sea.

“This is important because in a situation of war we do not want Russia attacking grain convoys and so the idea is that Ukranian pilots will lead the grain convoys through the corridors and see that they are safe,” said Woodward.

The UN will run a command and control centre in Istanbul, Turkey, where all representatives will be there to coordinate the safe passage and movement of the ships carrying the grain.

Empty ships will be inspected by all the four parties before grains are loaded in them to avoid any foul play, in this case, transportation of weapons.

Woodward added that Russia is keen to make sure that Ukraine cannot benefit from this too much, therefore the deal applies only to food and fertiliser export.

“This will not become a way for Ukraine to export anything else,” said Woodward.

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