Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting

FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in Moscow, Russia, May 27, 2022. Sputnik/Kremlin via REUTERS

Putin Rewards African Allies With Promise of Free Grain

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July 27, 2023

(Bloomberg) —

Russian President Vladimir Putin promised to send free grain to six African countries that have strong ties with Moscow.

Putin made the pledge at the Russia-Africa summit in St. Petersburg, which is taking place amid criticism in Africa of the impact on global food prices from Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea grain deal

Wheat prices spiked after Russia left the pact and attacked key port infrastructure in Ukraine, abandoning a guarantee of safe passage for merchant ships exporting Ukraine’s crops. 

Putin pledged 25,000-50,000 tons of grain each to Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, Central African Republic and Eritrea. Most of those nations have refrained from criticizing Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The shipments would make up a significant chunk of imports for the likes of Zimbabwe and Eritrea, but a tiny portion of Russia’s sales.

“Russia is trying to still position itself as a benevolent partner to emerging and developing economies, trying to mask the fact that it’s removing about 2.5 million tons of grains per month from the global market,” said Evghenia Sleptsova, senior economist at Oxford Economics.

Russia is shipping record volumes of wheat again this season after a bumper harvest helped to create a glut that drove local prices to the lowest in two years. 

Eritrea and Mali were among seven countries to vote against a UN General Assembly resolution demanding Russia leave Ukraine in February. The Central African Republic and Zimbabwe abstained and Burkina Faso was absent. Somalia voted for demanding that Russia should leave Ukraine. 

Somalia, Eritrea and Mali have already received shipments of food from Russia over the past year, according to data from Logistic OS. 

Mali is battling a jihadist militant insurgency and seeing a surge in the number of people in need of food due to erratic weather and the insecurity that the fighting has caused. 

–With assistance from Antony Sguazzin and Katarina Hoije.

© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.

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