G7 discuss measures to lift Russian blockade on Ukrainian grain exports | Ukraine

G7 discuss measures to lift Russian blockade on Ukrainian grain exports |  Ukraine

Urgent measures to break Russia’s blockade of grain exports from Ukrainian ports, including attempts to open routes through Romanian and Baltic ports, are being discussed by G7 foreign and agriculture ministers at meetings in Germany.

The grain export blockade is fast becoming one of the most pressing diplomatic and humanitarian crises in Ukraine. On Tuesday, US President Joe Biden said the US was working on solutions “to bring this food into the world so it could help bring prices down.”

The G7 foreign ministers meet in the Baltic Sea resort of Weißenhaus, north-east of Hamburg, and the agriculture ministers in Stuttgart.

Cem Özdemir, Germany’s agriculture minister and member of the Green Party, has been working with the EU for months to explore alternative train routes through Poland and Belarus to the Baltic ports, but the different gauges between Ukraine and Poland are causing a pre-existing traffic jam and a lack of suitable railway carriages speak against this option.

According to a Ukrainian estimate, only 20% of exports that Ukraine normally ships through Black Sea ports could ever be transported by rail to Baltic ports. The cost of road transport has quintupled in the past year.

Before the war, most of the food produced by Ukraine – enough to feed 400 million people – was exported through the country’s seven Black Sea ports. According to the United Nations World Food Program, almost 51 million tons of grain were transported through them in the eight months before the conflict began. Trade with Ukraine was worth US$47bn (£38bn) a year.

graphic

Ukraine’s Agricultural Policy and Food Minister Mykola Solsky has been exploring options ranging from Gdańsk or further east to the port of Klaipėda in Lithuania and three ports in Latvia. The Baltic ports have lost trade with Russia and Belarus, including potash, so they currently have spare capacity.

The Romanian port of Constanța has also taken on some shipments of Ukrainian grain, but ships that then transport the grain to Turkey would likely have to remain in Romanian waters.

The UN has also discussed whether a humanitarian corridor can be opened through Belarus to bring the grain to the Baltic ports, since the track gauge between Ukraine and Belarus is uniform.

David Beasley of the UN World Food Programme, who has been sounding the alarm for weeks, warned: “At the moment Ukraine’s grain elevators are full. At the same time, 44 million people around the world are marching towards starvation. We need to open these ports so that food can move in and out of Ukraine. The world demands it because hundreds of millions of people around the world depend on food passing through these ports.”

Typically, Ukraine exports about 5-6 million tons of grain and 700,000 tons of oilseeds monthly through the Black Sea ports. According to the Ukrainian Agribusiness Club, there is an estimated export backlog of between 15 and 20 million tons.

Markiyan Dmytrasevych, Ukraine’s deputy agriculture minister-designate, said exports by rail could expand to between 600,000 tons and 1 million tons, but it would take 18 to 24 months to clear current stocks before a new crop was added . In April, only 560,000 tons were exported from Ukraine by rail.

Roman Slaston, director general of Ukraine’s Agribusiness Club, said reopening ports – “Plan A” – remains the best option, but exports by road, barge and rail could be doubled to about half of what is achieved by the Ukrainian black market sea ​​went ports.

The greatest potential for growth, he said, would come from organizing an army of up to 10,000 trucks to haul grain on a five-day round trip from Ukraine to Baltic ports. He said 40 EU grain terminals could be used by Ukraine.

Slaston said up to 5,000 wagons loaded with grain were waiting to be crossed at the Polish border, but currently there was only capacity to move 350 wagons across per day.

After the port city of Odessa was hit by Russian missiles on Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned: “Without our agricultural exports, dozens of countries in different parts of the world are already on the brink of food shortages. The poorest are hit hardest. The political ramifications of this will be terrible.”

David Miliband, executive director of the International Rescue Committee, said: “Right now I think sanctions against Russia are at least as likely to be blamed for rising food prices as the invasion of Ukraine. There is huge competition around the world to win public opinion.”

There are already signs that Russian diplomacy is trying to shift the blame. Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, during a visit to Oman, claimed that the Ukrainian authorities are refusing to let ships carrying wheat from their ports and have been mining the areas around the ports. Ukraine said the allegations were absurd.

In 2020, Ukraine was the world’s fifth-largest wheat exporter, with low- and middle-income countries being key beneficiaries. The main export destinations were Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Lebanon.

In Egypt, where a third of the population lives below the official poverty line and depends on government-subsidized bread, flour prices have risen by 15%. General inflation was just over 13% in April.

In the month after the conflict began, export prices for wheat and corn rose by 22% and 20%, respectively, on top of sharp increases in 2021.

“,”caption”:”Sign up to First Edition, our free daily newsletter – every weekday morning at 7am BST”,”isTracking”:false,”isMainMedia”:false,”source”:”The Guardian”,”sourceDomain”:”theguardian.com”}”>

Sign up for First Edition, our free daily newsletter – every weekday morning at 7am BST

Solsky said those increases are likely to continue as Ukrainian farmers’ seeding campaign has been delayed by up to a fifth due to a lack of herbicides, colder weather, diesel fuel and the movement of vehicles due to lockdowns. Farmers have switched from summer crops to sunflowers and soybeans. An estimated one-fifth of Ukraine’s farmland is now in Russian hands.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.