UKRAINE- Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority recently pointed out that Ukraine must be ready to export grain almost exclusively via its Danube River ports as Russia continues to effectively block Black Sea shipments, according to a Zawya report.
The United Nations and Turkey brokered the Black Sea grain initiative last July to ensure the safe passage of grain to help tackle a global food crisis exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of its neighbor and a blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports.
However, after several reluctant extensions of the deal, Moscow has threatened not to extend the deal beyond July 18 unless a series of demands are met, including the removal of obstacles to Russian grain and fertilizer exports.
According to Russian authorities, the promises of help with those exports are yet to materialize, which is the reason for its continued frustration of the black sea grain exports from Ukraine.
“With Russia effectively blocking the operation of the grain corridor, we need to be ready to receive almost the entire export volume of the new harvest through the Danube ports,” Dmytro Barinov, the seaports authority’s deputy head, said on Facebook.
According to the seaport authority, three Ukrainian Danube river ports exported a record 3 million tonnes of food in May. Danube River ports are an important pillar of grain exports from Ukraine and, according to industry sources, in 2021, they processed over 5.5 million tonnes of all cargo.
Moreover, Ukrainian transport officials hold that export volumes could be higher if its Bystre Canal on the Danube is deepened.
According to a senior Ukrainian official, Kyiv wanted to start work on deepening the canal as early as this year.
Ukraine remains a major grain grower and exporter, although production has fallen sharply since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.
Ukraine’s grain output dropped to about 53 million tonnes in clean weight in the 2022 calendar year from a record 86 million tonnes in 2021, and the ministry holds that the crop could fall to 46 million in 2023.
However, even with the reduced harvest, Ukraine will still need to export more than 30 million tonnes of grain, millions of tonnes of vegetable oils, and oilseeds.
With a working grain corridor, about half of Ukrainian agricultural exports exit via Black Sea ports, while a quarter pass through its Danube ports and another quarter moves via the western border.
The Black Sea corridor has been an instrumental route for grain targetted to reach nations worldwide, especially in Africa, and an end to the grains deal would hit the Horn of Africa hard, according to United Nations officials.
The UN warns that another hike in food prices would add to the tens of millions of people facing hunger, and the currently operating grains deal could be just the solution to reduce the gravity of this dire situation.
“A non-renewal of the Black Sea initiative would absolutely hit Eastern Africa very, very hard,” Dominique Ferretti, World Food Programme Senior Emergency Officer, told a Geneva briefing.
“There’s a number of countries that depend on Ukraine’s wheat, and without it, we would see significantly higher food prices.”