Russia is ready to free up maritime shipping and facilitate the unhindered export of grain from Ukrainian ports in coordination with Turkey, its President Vladimir Putin told his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday.
Russia’s offensive in Ukraine and Western sanctions have disrupted supplies of wheat and other commodities from the two countries, fueling concerns about the risk of shortages and hunger around the world.
Russia and Ukraine account for 29% of global wheat exports, mainly via the Black Sea, and 80% of global export of sunflower oil. Ukraine is also a major corn exporter.
In a call with Erdoğan, Putin reiterated that Russia might export significant volumes of fertilizers and food in case sanctions against Moscow are lifted, according to the Kremlin readout of the talks.
“During the discussion of the situation in Ukraine, emphasis was placed on ensuring safe navigation in the Black and Azov seas and eliminating the mine threat in their waters,” the Kremlin said.
“Vladimir Putin noted the readiness of the Russian side to facilitate the unhindered sea transit of goods in coordination with Turkish partners. This also applies to the export of grain from Ukrainian ports.”
Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine has roiled the grain market, with Chicago wheat futures hitting a record high in March amid supply concerns.
Moscow is expecting a record crop this year, with exports to be shipped out of Russia’s open Black Sea ports.
Dozens of container ships are blocked in Ukrainian ports that are surrounded by Russian forces, choking off exports of wheat, sunflower oil and other foodstuffs, as well as fertilizer for crops.
Putin repeated claims that global food shortages were the result of “short-sighted” Western policies, saying Russia was ready to export “significant volumes of fertilizers and agricultural products if the relevant anti-Russian sanctions are lifted.”
A senior Turkish official last week said Ankara is in talks with Moscow and Kyiv to open a corridor via the Bosporus for grain exports from Ukraine.
More than 20 million tons of grain are stuck in silos at Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.
“With a corridor to be opened from Turkey, there was a demand for this grain to reach their targeted markets. Negotiations are still ongoing,” the senior official told Reuters.
Turkey shares a maritime border with Ukraine and Russia in the Black Sea and has good relations with both.
While it has criticized Russia’s offensive, Ankara is trying to balance its close ties and has positioned itself as a neutral party attempting to mediate between the warring sides.