July 27 (Reuters) – Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Thursday that his country was food-secure but was grateful for an offer of free grain from Russian President Vladimir Putin at a Russia-Africa summit in St Petersburg.
“We are grateful,” Mnangagwa told reporters at the summit. “We are not in any grain deficit at all. We are food-secure, he is just adding to what we are already have.”
Putin earlier told the summit that Russia was ready, in the next three to four months, to supply up to 50,000 tonnes of free grain to each of Zimbabwe, Burkina Faso, Mali, Somalia, Central African Republic and Eritrea.
Putin told African leaders that Russia would continue to meet their food needs despite last week pulling out of a deal that had allowed Ukraine – another top grain exporter – to ship cereals from its Black Sea ports despite the war.
Since then, Russia has repeatedly bombed Ukrainian ports and food storage sites. Western governments accuse Putin of “weaponising” food as an instrument of war.
In his speech, Putin set out his reasons for quitting the deal, which he said was not getting grain to the poorest countries. He did not acknowledge the fact that it had substantially lowered world prices, which have risen again sharply since Russia walked out of the agreement.
Russia’s state RIA news agency quoted the Ugandan foreign minister as saying Russia’s decision to end the deal was understandable.
Sawadogo Mahamadi, head of Burkina Faso’s chamber of commerce and industry, called the Russian food offer “a very good thing”.
“Africa needs these vital products today,” he said, “especially the Sahel countries like Burkina Faso that are facing security and humanitarian threats.”
(Reporting by Reuters, writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Kevin Liffey)