Ukraine’s grain exports have slumped significantly since Russia invaded the country and closed off its Black Sea ports, pushing up global food prices and prompting fears of shortages in Africa and the Middle East.
However towards the end of July three Black Sea ports were unblocked under a deal reached between Moscow and Kyiv, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey. But even with the ports opened, Ukraine’s agricultural exports are significantly lower than before the conflict, when Ukraine exported up to 6 million tons of grain a month.
Ukraine’s grain exports are down 51.6% year on year at 2.99 million tons in the 2022/23 season, (August 20 data), the agriculture ministry reported.
Grain exports, (wheat, barley, sunflower) for the 2021/22 season, which ended on June 30, rose 8.5% to 48.5 million tons thanks to strong shipments before Russia invaded last February 24.
The government has said that Ukraine could harvest at least 50 million tons of grain this year, compared with a record 86 million tons in 2021, given the loss of land to Russian forces, lower grain yields, risks for farmers working the fields and storage facilities.
On a review of the situation, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said there was still much more to do to ensure full global access to Ukrainian grain products and Russian food and fertilizers after the UN-Turkey brokered food export deal.
At a briefing in Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odesa, Guterres said developing countries needed help to purchase such grain and called for unimpeded access to global markets for Russian food and fertilizers, which are not subject to sanctions, and are crucial for the next sowing season. .
“This is an agreement between two parties locked in bitter conflict. It is unprecedented in scope and scale. But there is still a long way to go on many fronts,” he said. “It is time for massive and generous support so developing countries can purchase the food from this and other ports – and people can buy it”.
Agriculture exports from Ukraine are likely to rise to about 4 million tons in August, from 3 million tons in July, thanks to the UN-Turkey brokered deal that unblocked Ukrainian sea ports, a deputy chair of the Ukrainian Agrarian Council said this week.
Denys Marchuk, whose organization represents grain farmers told a televised briefing that despite new export opportunities, Ukrainian farmers would still face a shortage of funds and a third of them would not be taking part in 2022/23 winter grain sowing later this month.