Israel has signed a major grain deal with Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan to secure all of the country’s wheat needs at a time of disruptions in the global food supply amid the war in Ukraine, the Israeli Agriculture Ministry announced on Tuesday.
The agreement, which Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter inked during a visit to the two predominantly Muslim countries, is the latest sign of the friendly relations between Israel and the two former Soviet Republics.
The project, dubbed “Treat the wheat,” will see Israel share its technological knowledge in the field of agriculture to augment and facilitate wheat production in the two countries, the Israeli Agriculture Ministry said.
“As part of the vision that we lead in the Agriculture Ministry to ensure food security, we are advancing another significant step toward ensuring agricultural produce, most of which is not produced in Israel,” Dichter said in a statement.
“In this period of global uncertainty, many countries are interested in advancing with us out of common interests. We will continue to create more partnerships between the State of Israel and other countries, thereby ensuring food security for the citizens of Israel.”
Israel imports the vast majority of its wheat, primarily for animal feed.
The 18-month-old war in Ukraine—whose exports used to account for around 10% of the world’s trade in wheat, barley and corn—and reduced exports from Russia have caused the price of wheat on the global market to skyrocket, causing a food crisis in vulnerable countries.
During his visit, the Israel minister participated in an international food security conference in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, organized by the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), where he delivered remarks to a group of 70 counterparts from around the world.
Dichter subsequently met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and visited the country’s emergency grain storage facilities.
“Azerbaijan pays utmost importance to the development of mutually beneficial relations with Israel,” the Azerbaijani embassy in Tel Aviv said in a statement. “Agriculture is one of the main areas of our cooperation.”
The agricultural agreement with the strategically-located secular Azerbaijan comes months after Baku made history by becoming the first predominantly Shi’ite Muslim country to open an embassy in Israel and amid close relations between the two countries that have been called a strategic partnership.