Remarks at a UN Security Council Meeting on the Black Sea Grain Initiative

Ambassador Jeffrey L. DeLaurentis
Senior Advisor for Security Council Affairs
New York, New York
October 31, 2022


Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you, Under-Secretary-General Griffiths and Secretary-General Grynspan, for your briefings and so clearly outlining the benefits of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which Russia apparently is ready to deny to vulnerable people in low-income countries around the world.

Russia’s announcement to suspend its participation in the UN-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative is deeply concerning and fundamentally irresponsible. We urge Russia to keep this essential, life-saving arrangement functioning and allow food exports to move to the world market, to reach countries that need it most.

As already has been said, at the outset of 2022, conflicts, COVID-19, the effects of the climate crisis had already driven more than 190 million people into acute food insecurity. Since then, President Putin launched his brutal assault against Ukraine. Now, according to the World Food Program, a further 70 million people may fall into food insecurity.

Yet, while partners across Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe are working together to increase the resilience of global food systems, Russia is once again demonstrating its willingness to weaponize food. Its actions directly impact low- and middle-income countries by raising global food prices and exacerbating already dire humanitarian crises and global food security.

The United States along with other Council members welcomed the UN efforts, led by the Secretary-General and Türkiye, to bring this deal to fruition. At a dark time of war, this deal showed the value of diplomacy and the commitment to address a problem with global implications for food security.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative has helped stabilize and lower global food prices to pre-war levels. The initiative facilitated the transfer of more than 9 million tons of grain and other food products from Ukraine enough food to feed tens of millions of people. It has also enabled the World Food Program to get desperately needed food aid to vulnerable populations. This includes exports of corn and wheat to parts of the world where people need it most. Two-thirds of the wheat exported under the initiative has gone to developing countries in Latin America, Asia, and Africa.

Any action by Russia to disrupt these critical food exports is essentially a statement that people and families around the world should pay more for food or go hungry and face higher rates of malnutrition and death. We urge the Government of Russia to resume its participation in the initiative and extend it in order to ensure that people around the world continue to benefit from it. And we stand ready to support the UN in its efforts to extend and expand this deal.

Mr. President, since February, the United States has provided more than $6.1 billion in humanitarian assistance and $2.3 billion in development aid to combat global hunger and strengthen food security. We understand that the Russian government has announced its intention to donate 500,000 metric tons of grain to countries in need. This would be a welcome step, if grossly overdue, but cannot come at the cost of blocking vastly larger quantities of food exports from Ukraine.

Our Russian colleagues would have you believe that the United States has not been doing enough to facilitate food exports from Russia, but in fact, the United States has already excluded food and fertilizer from our sanctions on Russia. We will continue to provide guidance as needed to ensure food gets to its proper destination, because we are committed to addressing food insecurity globally. Our Russian colleagues also left out today that there had been three Russian attacks on Ukrainian ports Pivdennyi and Odesa since the grain deal was signed. One of those attacks took place just a day after it went to effect.

Mr. President, let me be perfectly clear as we have said before, now many times. There is only one way to solve the many food supply chain disruptions this conflict has caused. Russia must end its war and withdraw its troops from Ukraine.

Thank you, Mr. President.