File Photo: The Sierra Leone-flagged cargo ship Razoni, carrying Ukrainian grain, is seen in the Black Sea off Kilyos, near Istanbul, Turkey August 3, 2022. AFP
In a tweet on 23 August, Secretary Blinken charged that "The Kremlin has destroyed yet another 13,000 tons of grain headed to feed people in Egypt and Romania. Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian grain storage, ships, and ports are starving the world. Putin’s senseless war reaches far beyond Ukraine."
However, in a post on social media on Sunday, the Russian embassy in Cairo described Blinken's claims as “a clumsy attempt by the American propaganda to accuse Russia of harming the interests of Egypt, which we consider a strategic partner.”
The Russian embassy said this new attempt to accuse Russia wrongly “has once again failed,” stressing that Moscow does not target civilian infrastructures.
The embassy noted that in the past year, Russian suppliers shipped 8.1 million tons of grain to Egypt, with the latest shipment, which arrived at the Damietta port, carrying 26,000 tons.
Russia remains the main exporter of many crops to Egypt, the embassy stressed.
Moscow makes “every possible effort to ensure the food security of our Egyptian friends,” added the embassy.
Ahram Online could not reach the Egyptian Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade for a comment on the alleged incident referred to by Secretary Blinken.
Reviving grain deal
In late July, during his participation in the Russia-Africa Summit in St. Petersburg, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi called for a “consensual solution to revive the UN-brokered grain deal in a way that takes into account the demands and interests of all parties and curbs rising grain prices.”
The grain deal in question, known as the Black Sea Grain Initiative, was signed by Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the UN in Istanbul in July 2022.
The deal aimed to ensure the safe passage of tens of millions of tons of Ukrainian grains to many areas worldwide, including the Middle East, which heavily relies on Russian grain imports.
However, in early July 2023, Russia withdrew from the agreement, saying there were no grounds in the current period for remaining in the initiative.
However, Moscow vowed to return to the initiative as soon as the Russian interests in being part of the deal were met.
Egypt's Minister of Supply and Internal Trade, Ali Moselhi, also recently called for the revival of the deal, noting that Egypt would continue to import Ukrainian wheat through Europe.
Egypt, the world’s top wheat importer for years, relied on Russia and Ukraine for 80 percent of its wheat imports before the disruption of supply chains in the Black Sea, triggered by the onset of the conflict between the two countries in February 2022.
Since then, Egypt has been diversifying its wheat imports, buying more grain from other European and Asian sources.
Despite that, Egypt needs to import wheat from Russia and Ukraine to meet local demand.
In 2022, Egypt's wheat imports dropped by 18.7 percent to 9.5 million tons, its lowest levels since 2013, according to consultants at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
However, a June report by the FAO projected that Egypt would import 12 million tons of wheat during FY2023/2024 and thus reclaim its position as the world's top wheat importer.