EU blocks Russia’s fertilizer donation to Zimbabwe


About 23 000 tonnes of fertiliser donated to Zimbabwe by Russia have been blocked by the European Union (EU) as part of the bloc’s blockade on Russia’s agricultural exports, which was effected in response to the conflict in Ukraine.

Zimbabwe is among several developing countries that were earmarked to receive a share of the 260 000 tonnes of fertiliser free of charge from Russia’s agro-chemicals giant Uralchem-Uralkali last year.

Malawi (20 000 tonnes) and Kenya (34 000 tonnes) have since received their share, which was successfully delivered earlier this year through ships chartered by the United Nations World Food Programme.

Zimbabwe and Nigeria were due to receive their shipments sometime this year.

However, as a result of EU’s tightening blockade on Russian products, the consignment for the two countries is presently held at ports in Latvia, Estonia, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The EU has imposed sanctions on Russia that prohibit the export of a wide range of goods, including fertiliser, arguing that Russia is using the shipments to finance The bloc believes blocking Russia’s fertiliser exports will pressure Moscow into ending its conflict with Ukraine.

In a statement last week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation said 96 000 tonnes of fertiliser are currently stuck in EU ports.

“As part of the Russia-UN Memorandum on September 7, 2022 . . . Russia took the initiative to send 262 000 tonnes of mineral fertilisers blocked in the ports of Latvia, Estonia, Belgium and the Netherlands as humanitarian aid to the poorest countries . . . Since then, however, only two deliveries have been completed,” reads the statement.

“The release of three other planned shipments — to Nigeria (34 000 tonnes), Zimbabwe (23 000 tonnes) and Sri Lanka (55 000 tonnes) — has been stalled, despite the fact that all preparatory procedures have been completed.”

The ministry said the situation is “yet another example of the hypocrisy of Western countries”.

The EU, it noted, has repeatedly declared that sanctions do not directly apply to Russian fertilisers and food exports, but in reality, Brussels continues to block “even purely humanitarian, free deliveries” of Russian supplies.

Russian exporters, according to the statement, continue facing obstacles due to sanctions, including significant taxes and exorbitant fees for storage, trans-shipment and other logistics services.

Russia is also reportedly unable to pay for services after being cut off from the SWIFT interbank messaging system.

The blockade of Russian produce at EU ports, Moscow further claims, was “illegal”.

“It’s time for Brussels, London and Washington to either tie their actions with words about the non-extension of their illegal sanctions to Russian agricultural products, or stop lying to consumers, especially from the countries of the Global South, who bear the burden of the consequences of restrictions imposed (on Russia),” added the ministry.

Russian fertilisers were a key part of the UN-brokered Black Sea grain deal, under which Moscow and Kiev initially agreed to facilitate the delivery of Ukrainian grain to world markets, despite the conflict between the two nations.

In exchange, Russia expected to have Western barriers that prevented its agricultural exports to be removed.

The deal began in the summer of 2022 but was scrapped in July this year after Moscow accused the West of failing to uphold its end of the bargain.

Russia is one of the world’s biggest fertiliser producers.

Together with Belarus, it accounted for more than 40 percent of global exports of potash last year.

It also contributed 22 percent of global exports of ammonia and 14 percent of urea in the same period.

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