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Russia seeks review of Ukraine's Black Sea grain exports deal


Putin says EU, not poorest countries, is main beneficiary

120-day grain corridor agreement expires mid-November

Ukraine's infrastructure minister dismisses "threats and fakes"

Russian President Vladimir Putin Sept. 7 called for a review of the UN-brokered deal allowing Ukraine to export agricultural commodities from its Black Sea ports, triggering a spike in the price of corn and wheat futures.

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Prior to Russia's invasion, Ukraine was one of the world's largest exporters of the two grains, and the supply-shock caused by the closure of the country's deep sea ports pushed up global prices sharply at the end of February.

"Almost all of the grain exported from Ukraine is sent not to the poorest developing countries, but to EU countries," Putin said, adding that the intended beneficiaries of the deal had been "deceived" and received just two shipments out of more than 80.

"Nonetheless, we will continue this work and we hope that we still achieve the goals for which this enterprise was organized."

Russia would consider "limiting the destinations for grain and other food exports [under the deal]," said Putin, who was speaking at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok on Russia's Pacific coast.

In response, Ukrainian infrastructure minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said the comments were "threats and fakes [that] are typical for Russian politics".

Kubrakov said on Twitter that Ukraine had sent 16 ships to Africa, 54 to Asia and 32 to Europe.

Commentators, such as Elena Neroba of brokerage Maxigrain, have said Ukraine's additional supplies have brought down prices everywhere, regardless of the destination.

The deal, signed in Istanbul July 22, runs for 120 days and will expire mid-November. It creates a maritime humanitarian corridor, within which military vessels and aircraft must stay away from commercial vessels.

Ukraine's three deep sea ports of Chornomorsk, Odessa and Pivdennyi have exported 2.2 million mt of grain and other foodstuffs under the deal, according to a Sept. 7 statement from the signatories' Joint Coordination Center.

A large proportion of the shipments have gone to the EU and traders have said that some corn importers in Spain who had agreed to buy from Brazil have since switched to Ukraine.

Since Aug. 1, when the first grain carrier left Odessa, the Platts assessment of Handysize cargoes of 12.5% protein Russian has fallen from $359/mt to $307/mt on Sept. 6.

In futures markets, the MATIF September milling wheat contract fell to Eur307/mt ($305/mt) on Sept. 6 from Eur359/mt on Aug. 1. After Putin's comments, it was trading at Eur322/mt at 1030 GMT on Sept. 7.

Putin's complaint about the deal echoed the position of the Russian Grain Union, which lobbies for the country's producers and has said that their own capacity to export is limited by "hidden sanctions," as well as a lack of ships and issues with banks and insurers.

Russia's grain exports for July and August were down 22% on year, the union said.