United World International has organized an international webinar on the topic “The Grain War: Sanctions, Hunger and the Quest for a Mulipolar World” on October 24. Speakers from Russia, Türkiye and Egypt made presentations.
The speaker from Russia was Vyacheslav Matuzov. Matuzov is a former Soviet and Russian diplomat. He is also President of the Society for Friendship and Business Cooperation with Arab Countries and member of the Committee of Solidarity with the Peoples of Libya and Syria.
The entire webinar can be watched on Youtube. Below we present the speech of Mr. Matuzov in for publishing reasons slightly edited version. Subtitles were set by UWI. The presentations of Halil Özsaraç, ret. Turkish Navy Staff Captain and Dr. Sherif Fayyad, PhD in agricultural economics and member of the Political Bureau of the Progressive Party, Egypt will follow the next days.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to explain what is going on in my perspective. The situation in the world is degrading to an equation that arose after the beginning of the Russian Special Military Operation in Ukraine.
Until that moment, we did not even know that the world was suffering from the lack of food. Suddenly, the importance of the supply of grains from Ukraine and Russia for global food was discovered.
Major global producers of grain: The United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand
Truth is that following countries are the major producers of grain: United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. But know, we are being told that the whole world depends on this year’s harvest in Ukraine and Russia. We do of course a face a very serious situation in Europe, in Asia and in Africa. Maybe Russia is the only exception, because Russia has witnessed advantageous weather conditions this summer.
I think that Russia has taken this decision with the goal of avoiding any accusations that the Russian military operation was the main global obstacle to fight hunger. Because this was the main argument put forward against Russia: That Russia was making some military exercises in Ukraine, which were preventing the world from selling Ukrainian grain to the world markets, thus causing hunger especially in the Third World, i.e. Asian and African countries.
Hence, an agreement was achieved in the grain question in Istanbul, Türkiye, under the aegis the Secretary General of the United Nations between our Foreign Minister and his Turkish colleague. With this agreement, we found a way to solve this issue positively.
Russia opened way for cargo vessels to African and Asian countries
Russia opened the way for cargo vessels departing from Odessa, Mykolaiv and Ochakiv and many other ports from Ukraine to solve this issue. And here, I would like to remind once again: the issue was to solve the hunger in the Third World. The hunger in African and Asian countries. This was the main argument to accuse Russia of being responsible for hunger.
14 out of 15 vessels leaving Ukraine went to Europe – to feed animals
But, as far as I am informed, until now 14 out of 15 vessels leaving Ukrainian ports with grain were heading to European countries. Just one vessel headed to those countries that are suffering hunger. This occurred despite of a very politicized picture distributed by the global mass media before the agreement.
And it is even worse: this grain was not sent to Europe to feed people. That grain was sent mainly to feed animals! It was mainly animal feed.
We can conclude that all the propaganda before the agreement was made in order to provide grain to European countries from Ukraine, securing some assistance from Russia.
In addition, I would like to emphasize the following: Russia and Ukraine have agreed in not only providing export opportunity for Ukraine. That was only one point of the agreement. The agreement covered also the export of Russian grain and chemicals, such as fertilizers. But what was the progress made according to this agreement? Maybe the Egyptian speaker in this forum can clarify the data for his country’s imports.
The West is not lifting sanctions
We can discuss here how to solve all the problems that occur today. Because there are really serious problems.
The United States and European countries, which are receiving Ukrainian grain, are not lifting the restrictions and not fulfilling the agreement. There are financial restrictions against Russia. There are restrictions on vessels transporting Russian exports, impeding these vessels’ free operation between Russia and other countries.
And these restrictions have increased dramatically. The prices for Russian grain in Russia have also increased.
There is another problem, which his Excellency the Minister for Humanitarian Action from Mali will confirm: There have been negotiations with Mali to provide Russian grain. Mali has the according budget and capacity to pay the imports. But the price increased dramatically. Why? Because of sanctions.
Due to the sanctions applied against Russian vessels, it has become very difficult to transport the Russian grain.
Sanctions in the banking system
Another obstacle are the sanctions in the banking system. The United States regulates the global banking system, including Africa and the banks involved in grain trade and business relations with Russian companies. The West European and American financial centers will place all companies trading with Russia on a black list and sanction them.
The result is that no banks are ready and willing to participate in this grain deal. This is what occurred in Mali. Mali was not able, not even by paying increased prices due to sanctions, to import grain, because there was no way to transfer the payment.
And what is responsible for increased prices? The sanctions regime.
Now coming back to Egypt. Egypt provides a positive example for the dispatch of grain from Ukraine and Russia to the world. Ukraine has no problem; they receive their payment without any delay. But there are problems for Russia, although the agreement made by Russian, Ukrainian and Turkish representatives constituted a package for the two countries.
Grain agreement dealt with Ukrainian and Russian exports as a package
The agreement was not only considering Ukrainian but also Russian grain exports. By the way, when we speak of Ukrainian grain, we should understand that Ukrainian companies have no relations with this harvest. The company that is sending grain from Ukraine is not Ukrainian. Is Glencore an Ukrainian company? (Glencore is an Anglo-Swiss multinational commodity trading company with a subsidiary in Ukraine that claims to play a leading role in Ukrainian agriculture and export trade, UWI.)
European companies sell Ukrainian grain to European companies
So, it is mainly Western companies that are sending the grain from Ukrainian ports to European ports. Hence, the deal is between European companies and European companies! This is the reason why 14 out of 15 vessels that depart Ukraine arrive in Europe, and not in Africa.
In contrast, Russia wants to export grain to Africa, but faces sanctions and prohibitions from the United States and Great Britain. Prices are increased, payment services are interrupted, transport vessels are targeted and insurances denied.
Egypt presents another picture. I hope that the Egyptian speaker will present it, because Egypt provides a positive example. The Egyptian grain company has its own fleet. They can transport grain from Russia or Ukraine with their own means.
But even Egypt faces the problem of banking. Concerning grain trade, Egypt has historical relations with Russia. But even they face now problems, because the Suez Bank, which is responsible for the grain payment procedure, is restrained from receiving money from Russia.
The reason is that they, the bank and the companies are afraid of being punished by the United States and Great Britain.
How to solve this problem? The problem does not arise from Russia, it comes from the Western countries which already for a while have prohibited hunger suffering countries to make payments to Russia.
Grain deals and agreements should be exempted from political conflict
That is why we can state absolutely clearly that all agreements dealing with grain trade and the hunger issue should be solved exempted from political struggle and military confrontation occurring in Ukraine.
Therefore, we should turn to political considerations to solve political conflicts, and to business solutions to solve these kinds of grain and export related issues, which concern hunger in poor countries and are affected additionally by factors such as weather and harvests. We should refrain from solving political conflicts by economic or financial means.
But today, the United States takes a specific political stance and imposes sanctions even on those countries that want to purchase Russian grain, that can pay for it and transport it. But they cannot do so because the banking system is not operating properly.