Unleashing the flow of Ukrainian grain

Ukraine announced the resumption of grain exports at the Black Sea ports of Odessa, Chernomorsk and Pivdennyi under a new agreement reached with Russia. The image of ships loaded with wheat, corn, etc. ready to set out to sea brings hope for a cool down in the food crisis that has recently been heating up.

Harvesting a wheat in a field in Izmail, Odessa region (Ukraine). (Photo: THX/VNA)
Harvesting a wheat in a field in Izmail, Odessa region (Ukraine). (Photo: THX/VNA)

The United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths optimistically announced that the first ships carrying grain are ready to leave Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea. UN and Turkish observers at the port of Odessa will work to ensure the safe passage of the cargo ships.

According to Griffiths, the first ship from Odessa will be able to reach Somalia on a six-week journey. The Bulgarian ship Rozhen, carrying 40,000 tonnes of corn to the UK, will be the first to leave the port of Chernomorsk.

This ship docked at the port of Chernomorsk since the end of February and has been stuck there until now. Under the established “grain corridor”, the Rozhen will arrive at the Romanian port of Sulina and then head to Istanbul, Turkey, where observers will conduct cargo inspections.

On July 22, Russia and Ukraine signed a grain export agreement in which Turkey and the United Nations act as co-guarantors. Under the agreement, a team of Turkish, Ukrainian and United Nations personnel will monitor the loading of the cargo at the Ukrainian port, before the cargo travels along a predetermined route on the Black Sea. The cargo ships will then be inspected at a Turkish port to ensure they are not carrying contraband or weapons.

Turkey also inaugurated the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) in Istanbul to oversee the implementation of the grain transport process from Ukraine. The parties to the agreement jointly appointed a representative at JCC to supervise the implementation of the plan.

Accordingly, about 20 personnel from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations are now working at the centre. The JCC is commanded by the Admiral of the Turkish Navy. Controls for safe transport on grain routes from Ukrainian ports are maintained around the clock.

The United Nations expects the agreement to be fully implemented within the next few weeks so that Ukraine’s grain exports can be restored to pre-conflict levels (about five million tonnes per month).

More than 25 million tonnes of grain are available at the three Ukrainian ports waiting to be shipped, while dozens of cargo ships that have been stuck there for about five months are also preparing to depart.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the agreement on the grain corridor on the Black Sea, if properly implemented, could contribute to boosting trust between the parties. The head of the Turkish diplomatic service noted that the agreement not only allows Ukraine to export grain, but also helps Russia in exporting fertilizer.

The European Union (EU) and leaders of many countries also welcomed this agreement and expressed hope that the implementation of the agreement will not only help to stabilise the world food market but also to open the prospect of peace for the current conflict in Ukraine.

The World Food Program (WFP) is optimistic about the agreement to resume grain exports to international markets through the Black Sea. The WFP has emphasised that countries that depend on grain supplies from the Black Sea will feel the positive impact first.

This year, WFP has had to cut aid to famine hotspots such as Yemen and South Sudan due to global inflation and budget shortfalls, which have been exacerbated by the crisis in Ukraine.

However, according to WFP, even if effectively implemented, the agreement to resume grain shipping in the Black Sea alone will not be enough to solve the global food crisis. In addition to the severe impacts of conflict, shocks caused by climate change or diseases will continue to drive food prices up.