Russian efforts to conquer Ukraine have not gone according to plan but in the Black Sea, Russian efforts to disrupt Ukrainian agricultural, mainly grain, and exports have had more success. Before Russia invaded in 2022, Ukraine grain and other agricultural exports represented ten percent of such exports worldwide. Most of these agricultural exports left by ship from Ukrainian Black Sea ports before the 2022 Russian invasion, with most being stopped by a Russian blockade. Russia offers to allow renewal of Ukrainian grain exports to get economic sanctions on Russia lifted. Before 2022 Ukraine exported about 33 million tons of grain and other agricultural products a year. Since the war began, that has declined to 13.5 tons a year. Russia normally exports three times more grain and other agricultural goods than Ukraine.
There are no trade sanctions on Russian food exports and the more Ukrainian food exports Russia can block, the more Russia receives for its grain. In the last year Russia has shipped 60 million tons of food and is getting above average prices for it. Unlike Ukraine, which only ships grain from Black Sea ports, Russia has other options. Russia has lost a lot of support from African and Middle Eastern countries that depend on Ukraine and Russian grain exports. Russia assures these nations that it will supply the grain, but does not mention that prices will be higher because of the Russian disruption of food Ukrainian exports. Many of the nation’s Russia exports food to are relatively poor countries and the higher prices are a burden.
The United States is one of the five major wheat exporters. The top five are Russia, Australia, America, Canada, and Ukraine. Together these nations export over 115 million tons of wheat a year worth nearly $32 billion. Food importing nations have noted that the Western economic sanctions on Russian exports have deliberately excluded food. Russian efforts to block Ukrainian grain exports increase the price of exported grain and Russian benefits while nations purchasing this grain don’t.