Bloomberg reports that the US government is quietly encouraging agricultural and shipping companies to buy and carry more Russian fertiliser. Sanctions fears have led to a sharp drop in supplies, fuelling spiralling global food costs.
The effort is part of complex and difficult negotiations underway involving the United Nations to boost deliveries of fertiliser, grain and other farm products from Russia and Ukraine that have been disrupted by President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of his southern neighbor.
US and European officials have accused the Kremlin of using food as a weapon, preventing Ukraine from exporting. Russia denies that even as it has attacked key ports, blaming the shipment disruptions on sanctions imposed by the US and its allies over the invasion.
The EU and the US have built exemptions into their restrictions on doing business with Russia to allow trade in fertiliser, of which Moscow is a key global supplier. But many shippers, banks and insurers have been staying away from the trade out of fear they could inadvertently fall afoul of the rules. Russian fertiliser exports are down 24% this year. US officials, surprised by the extent of the caution, are in the seemingly paradoxical position of looking for ways to boost them.
More than 25 million tons of grain, sunflower oil and other commodities are stuck in Ukraine because of security fears in the Black Sea ports and shipping lanes traditionally used to carry them to global markets. Officials warn the situation will become more dire with the new harvest beginning.