Wheat Prices Soar after Russia Ends Grain Deal

tendata blogTrade Trends News

ten data blog18-07-2023

-Russia said Monday it would not renew the U.N.-brokered Black Sea Food Initiative, hours before the deal expired.

-Wheat, corn and soybean prices all rose on the news.

-Simon J. Evenett, a global trade expert and professor of economics at the University of St. Gallen (University of St. Gallen), said Monday that Russia's withdrawal reflects "a fatal blow to an agreement that is in its final stages.

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Russia's withdrawal from a crucial wartime deal that allowed Ukraine to export grain through the Black Sea has revived concerns about global food security, with analysts calling the initiative's failure both an inevitable setback and a blow to markets.

Hours before the agreement expired, Russia said Monday it would not renew the Black Sea Food Initiative.

The deal, brokered by Turkey and the United Nations after Moscow's full-scale invasion of Ukraine last July, was a rare diplomatic breakthrough aimed at averting a global food crisis.

"Today is the last day of the grain agreement," Kremlin Dmitry Peskov said. "Russia will return to the agreement when the corresponding part that favors Russia's interests is fulfilled."

The Black Sea grain program has been extended several times in short-term increments as Russia grows increasingly dissatisfied with restrictions limiting the full dispatch of its own grain and fertilizer exports.

Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated those complaints during a weekend phone call with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who, according to a Kremlin Google-translated report, said the main goal of supplying food to countries in need, including those on the African continent, is yet to be realized.

Wheat, corn and soybean prices all rose on the news. Wheat futures rose 3% on Monday, touching a high of 689.25 cents per bushel, the highest level since June 28 when the contract traded as high as 706.25 cents.

However, wheat prices are still well below the peak level of 1,177.5 cents a bushel reached last May.

Corn futures surged to a high of 526.5 cents per bushel, while soybean futures soared to a high of 1,388.75 cents per bushel.

Simon J. Evenett, a global trade expert and professor of economics at the University of St. Gallen, said Monday that Russia's withdrawal reflected "a fatal blow to an agreement that was already in its final stages.

 He cited U.N. shipping data showing that shipments have been steadily declining so far this year.

"The failure of the Black Sea agreement is a blow to countries sourcing cheaper Ukrainian wheat. As long as this does not trigger a massive export ban, the termination of the deal is only a minor disruption," Evanette said by e-mail.

"What will matter going forward is whether Russia weaponizes its wheat exports," he added. "During the last and current harvest cycles, Russia was the world's largest supplier, exporting about 45 million tons."

Market participants should pay close attention to the prospect of Moscow raising export taxes, which could further increase food prices and help the Kremlin finance its military operations in Ukraine, Evanette said.

"Food prices are under upward pressure."

The political risk consultancy doesn't expect the deal's suspension to trigger a new round of potentially globally destabilizing food inflation anytime soon, Eurasia Group's Peter Ceretti told CNBC.

"Russian grain shipments will continue, and the termination of the deal will not completely stop Ukrainian shipments through the Black Sea or Europe," Ceretti said via email.

"Looking ahead, however, the end of the grain deal will add to other upward pressures on food prices, such as the drought in Europe and the outbreak of El Niño. The markets most affected by the failure of the agreement will be North African and Levantine countries that import large quantities of grain from the Black Sea region." He added.

Since it was signed in July last year, the Black Sea Food Initiative has allowed the export of more than 32 million tons of food commodities from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports - Odessa, Chernomorsk and Pivdeni (formerly known as Yuzhny) - to 45 countries, the UN said. countries. countries of the world.

It is for this reason that UN Secretary General António Guterres called the agreement "indispensable" for global food security.

Guterres said in early July that the agreement "must continue" at a time when conflicts, the climate crisis, energy prices and other factors are disrupting the production and affordability of food, and when 258 million people in 58 countries around the world are facing hunger.

Carlos Mella, head of agricultural markets at Rabobank, said Monday that while investors had been bracing for the deal to be canceled, Russia's withdrawal was a "blow" to the market.

The move supported price stability and prevented shortages in developing countries, Mella said.

"Ukraine will now be forced to export most of its grains and oilseeds through its land borders and Danube ports. This will significantly push up transportation costs and put further pressure on Ukrainian farmers' margins," he added.

"The knock-on effect of this is that it could prompt them to plant less next season, putting further pressure on future supplies."

Ultimately, the development means that low-income countries in Africa and the Middle East could become more reliant on Russian wheat - which accounts for more than 20% of global wheat exports, Mella said.

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