Russian President Vladimir Putin guaranteed on Monday that Moscow would replace Ukrainian grain bound for Africa, after the Kremlin abandoned a crucial grain deal for world food and ahead of a Russia-Africa summit. “I want to reassure that our country is able to replace Ukrainian cereals on a commercial basis and at no cost, especially as we expect another record harvest this year,” wrote the head of state in an article published on the Kremlin website, titled “Russia and Africa: Uniting efforts for peace, progress and a prosperous future”. “Notwithstanding the sanctions, Russia will continue its vigorous efforts to ensure the distribution of cereals, food products, fertilizers and other goods to Africa (…) the network of Russian embassies and trade missions in Africa will be expanded, “added Vladimir Putin, while a Russia-Africa summit is to open Thursday in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg.

Signed in July 2022 in Istanbul and renewed twice, the cereals agreement, which made it possible to reopen Ukrainian agricultural exports by sea despite the Russian offensive, expired last week. In one year, it has enabled nearly 33 million tonnes of cereals to leave Ukrainian ports, mainly corn and wheat, helping to stabilize world food prices and avert the risk of shortages. Moscow has refused to extend it, complaining of insufficient grain deliveries to poor countries and impediments to its own exports of agricultural products and fertilizers.

On Tuesday, the African Union “regretted” Russia’s withdrawal from the agreement. “I urge stakeholders to resolve the issues to allow the resumption of the continued and safe passage of grain and fertilizers from Ukraine and Russia to regions in need, including Africa,” AU Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said on his Twitter account. Moscow said on Friday that it understood “the concerns” of African countries, promising to continue to deliver to countries in need. Russia also said last week that it would consider ships bound for Ukraine in the Black Sea as potentially carrying military cargo.