KSE: Refuting russia’s four grain narrative myths

KSE: Refuting russia’s four grain narrative myths
Russia is promoting four myths about Ukraine's grain exports. / bne IntelliNews
By bne IntelliNews October 10, 2023

Russia has been promoting four myths about Ukraine grain exports to the rest of the war, as it continues its naval blockade on seaborne exports that undermine global food security, the Kyiv School of Economics (KSE) Agrocenter writes.

there are four extremely misleading narratives propagated by the Russian Federation regarding Ukrainian grain trade:

Narrative 1. Ukraine did not supply grain to low-income countries during the existence of the Grain Deal.

In 2022, Ukraine exported more than 33m tons of wheat, with 5.6 m tons being sent to lower-middle-income countries, and 0.8m tons to low-income countries. More than 0.7m tons of Ukrainian wheat were delivered as humanitarian products to low-income African countries within the "Grain from Ukraine" initiative.

The share of Ukrainian grain delivered to low-income countries is explained by the weak demand of these countries: In season 2021/22, the overall wheat imports of five countries that purchased Ukrainian wheat (Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen) was only 12m tons.

Narrative 2. Ukrainian grain does not matter for the global food security.

In 2021, Ukraine was the largest exporter of sunflower oil, the 3rd largest exporter of corn, and the 5th largest exporter of wheat. According to the KSE Agrocenter estimates, as of 2022, more than 400m peoples across the globe depend on Ukrainian grain.

After the announcement of russia's withdrawal from the Grain Deal on July 17, 2023, futures grain prices edged up by more than 30 USD/t (around 11%). Therefore, disruption of trade flows from Ukraine elevates agricultural prices across the world and threatens global food security.

Narrative 3. russia ensures food security in low-income African countries.

The share of russian grain export to sub-Saharah countries defined as low-income countries according to the World Bank methodology was below 5% of total russian grain exports in 2022, with Egypt constituting approximately 4.3 m tons, which is 78% of total russian wheat exports to Africa.

Among African countries,  using available 2022 data, the only importer of russian barley is Morocco (4.5% of the total russian barley export). Similarly, russian corn export to Africa is not significant (2,800 tonnes). Moreover, only 4.6% of the russian export of sunflower seed was exported to Africa in 2022.

Narrative 4. russia participates actively in humanitarian food aid programmes for Africa.

Russia’s share in total contributions to the UN World Food Programme was 0.2% in 2022 and has a tendency to decline. Starting from the end of June 2023, the president of russia promised to send USD10m in humanitarian food aid to WFP to support equally 4 African countries (Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ethiopia), while the required budget of WFP is over USD55 bn.


The Kyiv School of Economics (KSE) is a bne IntelliNews media partner and a leading source of economic analysis and information on Ukraine. This content originally appeared on the KSE website.

(bne: in Ukraine it is official policy is to write "Russia" in the lower case in all but official intternational documents)