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Zimbabwe welcomes Russian grain shipment

Sunday February 25, 2024 {HMC} HARARE —Zimbabwe’s agriculture ministry on Friday inspected the first batch of grain sent by Russia as part of Moscow’s battle against diplomatic isolation in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine.

Last year, President Vladimir Putin offered free grain to six African countries during a summit in Saint Petersburg, days after withdrawing from a deal under which Ukrainian grain exports were allowed to pass through the Black Sea to reach global markets.

In addition to Zimbabwe, Putin pledged grain to Mali, Somalia, the Central African Republic, Eritrea and Burkina Faso.

The summit was scrutinised as a test of Putin’s support in the continent after his Ukraine invasion.

Zimbabwe’s deputy agriculture minister, Vangelis Haritatos, said Friday that imports started arriving “a few weeks ago” and were on course to reach the promised 25,000 tons.

During the inspection, Haritatos said Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa would decide what to do with the grain “but definitely wheat can be given to the vulnerable households.”

The southern African country faces widespread poverty and high unemployment and has one of the world’s highest inflation rates.

Zimbabwe will also receive 23,000 tons of fertiliser according to the deputy minister — 10,000 of which is already in the country.

The fertiliser will be put into a “Presidential Input Program” which distributes free seeds and fertilisers to communal farmers, he said.

Largely isolated on the global stage since the start of the Ukraine offensive, Russia has sought to strengthen diplomatic and security ties with Africa.

Zimbabwe is also an international outlier, its leadership the target of US and European sanctions over graft and rights abuses.

The wheat arrived as the impoverished country battles a “tricky” El Nino season, Haritatos said.

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