Russia’s suspension of ICMN: What impact on Morocco?

Soukaina Sghir
Soukaina Sghir
6 Min Read

Russia’s suspension of the Black Sea Cereal Initiative (ICMN) agreement, allowing Ukraine to ship grain from its Black Sea ports safely in the middle of a multi-month war should raise costs and hurt North African countries, especially Morocco.

Analysts say that ships transporting grain to and from Ukraine without Russian protection should put additional pressure on world markets already stretched by grain shortages. On Monday, Ukraine said that a dozen of its ships had still sailed, while initially, more than 200 ships, loaded and ready to travel, some to the Kingdom, were blocked after Russia’s announcement of its suspension of the agreement (Russia-ONU-Turkey).

The historic agreement resulted in the crucial export of grain from Ukraine and Russia as the world’s largest suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other food. The expeditions were mainly to African countries, mainly those in the north (Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, etc.), the Middle East and parts of Asia where many are already fighting hunger. Indeed, in the countries of North Africa and the Middle East, bread is an essential part of the diet of the citizens of these countries, there is no alternative to rice in Asia or sorghum in Africa.

Russia is leaving the risk of leaving Ukraine without its protection after Moscow alleged a Ukrainian drone attack on its Black Sea fleet. The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that the implementation of the cereal’s agreement was “difficult to achieve” in a situation where “Russia talks about the impossibility of guaranteeing safe navigation in the aforementioned areas” of the Black Sea. Russia’s decision could mean higher food prices for a world increasingly concerned about food security.

This raises the “spectre” of unrest in places where bread prices fueled the Arab Spring uprisings and in Morocco long before, with this movement known to be that of the revolt of the “koumira” and the riots of June 1981 during the lead years that marked the contemporary history of Morocco. Today, “wheat is here, but it should just come at a very high price,” said Joseph Glauber, senior researcher at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington.

The agreement on cereals had reduced world food prices by about 15% from their peak in March. According to the ONU.

the ONU Secretary-General urged Russia and Ukraine to renew the agreement when it expires on 19 November. But, following Russia’s announcement, wheat futures’ prices jumped more than 5% in Chicago, while major oil futures’ prices rose in Asian markets. With tight global markets, prices will rise and countries like the Kingdom will have to pay more to import cereals and other fossil fuels.

We remember that before the grain deal was negotiated, the United States and Europe accused Russia of starving the world’s vulnerable regions by refusing exports. Since the agreement, Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed that most of the grain exported was destined for Europe rather than the world’s most starving countries. Russia has asked for an ONU Security Council meeting to discuss the issue while proposing to provide up to 500,000 tons of free grain “to the poorest countries within the next four months.”

Sanctions against Russia do not affect its grain exports and the wartime side agreement is intended to pave the way for shipments of food and fertilizer from Moscow. Ukraine, the United States and their allies have again accused Russia of playing the “hunger games”. In this war, developing countries will have to find new suppliers and pay more to countries like the United States, Argentina, Brazil and Australia. But let it be said, in some parts of the African continent, where prices have remained high, concerns are resurfacing and Morocco is no exception.

The Kingdom is already facing an unprecedented economic situation, because it has been heavily impacted by severe drought (cereal harvests at only 32 million quintals instead of the 72 million expected). This shortfall must be met by imports. Also, Morocco is forced to collect its grain, more than 7.5 million tons elsewhere, all cereals combined (common wheat, corn and barley). As a result, in the face of a highly disrupted international market, the Kingdom, which was penalized by the economic situation, tried to diversify its imports of cereals and soya oils, resulting in a jump of nearly 48% which hurt the pockets of the State.

The Moroccan should be remembered, as a “Khabzaoui” just like in the other Maghreb countries and consumes an average of 200 kg of wheat per year, three times the world average. The Kingdom imports wheat from 15 countries. Russia and Ukraine represent only a 15% share. With the conflict in Ukraine, the Kingdom has turned to South America, notably Argentina and Brazil, which are now gaining more than 40% market share. Previously, Europe and North America accounted for the lion’s share with a share of over 60%.

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