Millions of tons of food from previous harvests in Ukraine still need to be cleared to make room in silos for the next one, the United Nations coordinator for a grains deal said on Saturday.
More than 1 million metric tons of Ukrainian grain and foodstuffs have been shipped since the start of August under the terms of a landmark deal that freed up the embattled country’s Black Sae ports amid Russia’s invasion, Türkiye and the U.N. said Saturday.
All of Ukraine’s seaports, key for agricultural exports, were blocked by what Russia refers to as its “special military operation” in the country, but shipments resumed in late July under the deal between Moscow and Kyiv brokered by Türkiye and the U.N.
Russia and Ukraine accounted for around a third of global wheat exports before Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion. Russia is also a major exporter of fertilizer.
A total of 103 ships had set sail either to or from Ukraine since the beginning of August, the Joint Coordination Center, which was set up in Istanbul to monitor the implementation of the agreement, said Saturday.
The flow of grain under the deal has driven down prices, reduced the risk of food insecurity and allowed the World Food Program (WFP) to restart wheat purchases from Ukraine for drought-hit countries such as Ethiopia and Yemen.
“The Black Sea Grain Initiative has started creating some space but much more grain needs to shift to make space for the new harvest,” said Amir Abdulla, U.N. Coordinator for the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
Ukraine has said its exports can reach 4 million tons a month in the near future but this volume is significantly lower than the 6 million tons shipped before the war.
Meanwhile, six more ships left Ukrainian ports on Sunday, the Turkish National Defense Ministry said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday said 44 ships had been sent to 15 nations. A further 70 applications for ships to be loaded had been received, he added, reiterating that Kyiv’s goal was to export three million tons a month.
This was also affirmed by Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov, who wrote on Twitter that “ we are ready to increase our volumes to 3 million tons per month to prevent global food shortage.”
The Infrastructure Ministry separately said some grain has been diverted out via more cumbersome routes involving cargo ships transiting the Danube River toward Romania, or by rail.
It said more grain is being shipped across the Danube River than at any point since the start of the war six months ago.
On Saturday alone, 11 ships made their way to the river ports of Izmail, Reni and Ust-Dunaysk and loaded aboard a total of 45,000 tons of grain, the ministry said.
Since March, more than 4 million tons of grain have already been taken out of the country through Ukraine’s Danube ports, it noted.