Senegal’s President Macky Sall said Russia’s Vladimir Putin had told him on Friday he was ready to enable the export of Ukrainian grain to ease a global food crisis that is hitting Africa especially hard.
“President #Putin has expressed to us his willingness to facilitate the export of Ukrainian cereals,” Sall wrote on Twitter after meeting Putin in his role as chairman of the African Union.
Russia was also ready to ensure the export of its own wheat and fertiliser, Sall said after the talks in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on day 100 of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Africa is heavily dependent on grain supplies from Russia and Ukraine that have been badly disrupted by the war.
“I have come to see you, to ask you to be aware that our countries, even far from the theatre (of war), are the victims of this economic crisis,” Sall told Putin earlier.
In remarks that were carried on Russian state television, he said most African countries had avoided condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine at votes in the United Nations.
In the televised part of the meeting, Putin made no reference to the food crisis but spoke in general terms of Moscow’s desire to develop ties with Africa.
Russia’s army has seized much of Ukraine’s southern coastline and its warships control access to the country’s Black Sea ports. Yet it continues to blame Ukraine and the West for the resulting halt in Ukrainian grain exports.
Moscow blames the situation on naval mines floating near Ukrainian ports and on Western sanctions that are hitting its own grain and fertiliser exports because of the impact on shipping, banking and insurance.
Sall said he had spoken to the European Union this week and said everything concerning food and grain supplies should be outside the scope of sanctions.
African countries are acutely affected by the growing crisis, which has sent prices of grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertilizer soaring.
Russia and Ukraine account for nearly a third of global wheat supplies, while Russia is also a key global fertilizer exporter and Ukraine is a major exporter of corn and sunflower oil.
By Mark Trevelyan
Additional reporting by Bate Felix in Dakar, editing by Frances Kerry