UKRAINE- Following the termination of the black sea grain initiative, Ukraine and Croatia have agreed on the possibility of using Croatian ports on the Danube River and the Adriatic Sea for the export of Ukrainian grain.
Though the details of the possible collaboration are yet to be ironed out, the two countries held talks on July 31 as Ukraine continues to seek alternative routes for its grain exports.
Russia left the Black Sea Grain Initiative on July 17, blockading the waterway and limiting Ukraine’s choice of a safe way to export its agricultural products.
Before the Russian invasion, the Black Sea handled about 95% of Ukrainian grain exports before Russia’s invasion, shipping around 33 million metric tons of grain since its initiation.
However, an additional 2.5 million metric tons were exported monthly by the Danube River, road, and rail through Europe.
“Now we will work to establish the most efficient routes to these ports and make the most of this opportunity,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Reuters after the meeting in Kyiv.
“Every contribution to unblocking export, every door opened is a real, effective contribution to the world’s food security,” Kuleba added.
With no safe passage through the Black Sea, Ukraine currently relies on land export routes via the European Union as well as an alternative route via the Danube River.
The European Commission recently reassured Ukraine that it could expand alternative road routes, so-called “solidarity lanes,” for Ukraine’s grain exports to pacify the negative effects of the collapse of the Black Sea Grain Initiative sea routes.
However, challenges abide as Russia continues to attack grain infrastructure along the river, raising questions as to how much longer that route will remain viable.
Moreover, Ukraine is facing even more challenges with its grain exports as analysts note corn and wheat production in Ukraine is down nearly 40% this year from prewar levels.
According to the July report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Ukrainian harvest this year is the lowest in a decade.
Meanwhile, Putin stressed Russia’s role as a major exporter of wheat, a key product for food security during the recently-held Russia-Africa summit, explaining that the nation’s share of the market is 20%, compared to less than 5% for Ukraine.
He further insisted that the country was expecting a bumper harvest this year and would be willing to supply free grain to several impoverished African countries, promising some level of food security after the collapse of the Black Sea grain deal, which Russia is adamant to not renew.
At the summit, some African leaders insisted on the need to resume the grain deal and establish the safe passage of Ukrainian grain to reach Africa.
“We would like the Black Sea initiative to be implemented and that the Black Sea should be open. We are not here to plead for donations for the African continent,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said.
Putin responded that Russia would analyze African leaders’ peace proposal for Ukraine, whose details are yet to be publicly shared.