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A deal that lets Ukraine export grain during its war with Russia is about to expire

Bulk carrier ARGO I is docked at the grain terminal of the port of Odesa on April 10.
Bo Amstrup
Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Ima
Bulk carrier ARGO I is docked at the grain terminal of the port of Odesa on April 10.

The U.N.-backed deal that has allowed Ukraine to export grain and other food items during the ongoing invasion by Russia is set to expire Monday with no announced plans for renewal.

Known as the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the agreement reached last July allowed for international shipments of corn, wheat, barley and other food products from three designated ports in Ukraine, which has been nicknamed the "breadbasket of Europe."

Experts say the deal — while imperfect — has helped stave off a worsening of global hunger and prevented a surge in food prices worldwide. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called the deal "a beacon of hope" when it was signed last summer.

Now its future is unclear. Russian President Vladimir Putin says a part of the agreement that would have eased similar exports from his country has not been satisfied.

According to the Kremlin, Putin said in a call with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Saturday that Russia still faced obstacles exporting food and fertilizer, contrary to obligations in the deal that were supposed to lift such barriers.

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who helped broker the deal, said Friday that he believes Putin will renew the agreement.

Erdogan told reporters that he had spoken to the Russian president by phone and that he and Putin were "on the same page" when it came to extending the deal, Deutsche Welle reported.

In the nearly one year since the deal has been in place, ships have made 1,003 voyages from the three Ukrainian ports carrying a total of 32.8 million tons of grain and other food products, the United Nations announced on Saturday.

Forty-five countries received grain shipments from Ukraine under the initiative. Asia saw 46% of the imports, while 40% went to Western Europe, 12% went to Africa and 1% went to Eastern Europe.

A ship that left the port of Odesa early Sunday morning was the last one to depart Ukraine in the waning hours of the current agreement, Reuters reported.

The deal also allowed for the export of fertilizer from Ukraine, though none had been shipped, the U.N. said.

In May, the parties agreed to extend the deal for another two months, though Russia also complained at the time that sanctions and other restrictions hampered the country's trade abilities.

NPR's Peter Kenyon contributed reporting.

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