ISTANBUL (AP) — Three more ships carrying thousands of tons of corn left Ukrainian ports on Friday and traveled through mined waters to inspect their delayed cargo, a sign that an international grain export deal has been on hold since the end of the war. invasion of Ukraine by Russia progressed slowly. But major hurdles lie ahead in getting food to the countries that need it most.
Ships to Ireland, UK and Turkey follow first shipment of grain crossing the Black Sea since the beginning of the war. The ship’s passage to Lebanon earlier this week was the first under the groundbreaking deal negotiated by Turkey and the United Nations with Russia and Ukraine.
The first ships to leave are among more than a dozen bulk carriers and cargo ships loaded months ago but stuck in ports since the Russian invasion in late February. While the resumption of shipments has raised hopes of easing a global food crisis, much of the saved cargo is for animal feed, not human consumption, experts say.
The Black Sea region is nicknamed the breadbasket of the worldwith Ukraine and Russia, the world’s main suppliers of wheat, corn, barley and sunflower oil that millions of poor people in Africathe Middle East and parts of Asia depend for their survival.
However, initial shipments are not expected to have a significant impact on the world price of corn, wheat and soybeans. For starters, exports under the deal are starting slowly and cautiously due to the threat of explosive mines floating off the Ukrainian Black Sea coast.
And while Ukraine is a major wheat exporter to developing countries, there are other countries, such as the United States and Canada, with much higher production levels that can affect world wheat prices. .. And they face the threat of drought.
“Ukraine accounts for about 10% of international wheat trade, but in terms of production it’s not even 5%,” said David Laborde, an agriculture and trade expert at the International Policy Research Institute. food in Washington.
The three ships departing on Friday were accompanied by Ukrainian pilot ships for safe passage due to explosive mines scattered in the Black Sea. Ships left with more than 58,000 tonnes of maize, but this is still only a fraction of the 20 million tonnes of grain that Ukraine says is trapped in silos and ports across the country that need to be shipped to make room for this year’s crop.
About 6 million tonnes of trapped grain is wheat, but only half is for human consumption, Laborde said.
Ukraine is expected to produce 30-40% less grain over the next 12 months due to the war, although other estimates put the figure at 70%.
Grain prices peaked after the Russian invasion, and although some have since returned to pre-war levels, they are still higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic. Corn prices are 70% higher than at the end of February 2020, said Jonathan Haines, principal analyst at data and analytics firm Gro Intelligence. He said wheat prices were about 60% higher than in February 2020.
One of the reasons why prices remain high is the impact of the drought on crops in North America, China and other regions, as well as higher fertilizer prices necessary for breeding.
“When fertilizer prices are high, farmers can use less fertilizer. And when they use less fertilizer, they produce less. And if they produce less, the supply will remain insufficient,” Laborde said.
The three ships that left Ukraine on Friday give hope that exports will increase to developing countries, where many face the heightened threat of food shortages and hunger.
“The movement of three additional vessels overnight is a very positive sign and will continue to build confidence that we are heading in the right direction,” Haines said. “If the grain flow from Ukraine continues to increase, it will help ease global supply constraints.”
The Polarnet, flying the Turkish flag, carrying 12,000 tonnes of corn, left the port of Chornomorsk bound for Karasu, Turkey. The Navi Star, flying the Panamanian flag, left the port of Odessa for Ireland with 33,000 tons of maize. The Maltese-flagged Rojen left Chornomorsk for the UK with more than 13,000 tonnes of maize, the UN said.
He added that the Joint Coordination Center – led by Ukrainian, Russian, Turkish and UN officials overseeing the agreement signed in Istanbul last month – cleared the three vessels and inspected a vessel bound for Ukraine. . The Fulmar S, flying the flag of Barbados, was inspected in Istanbul and is heading for the port of Chornomorsk.
The checks aim to ensure that outgoing cargo ships only carry grain, fertilizer or food and not other goods and that incoming ships do not carry weapons.
After Turkey helped broker the food deal two weeks ago, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia, on Friday.
In a statement after the four-hour talks, Putin and Erdogan stressed “the need for full realization of the comprehensive agreement reached in Istanbul…including the unhindered export of Russian grain and fertilizers “.
In other developments on Friday, Ukraine’s presidential office said at least eight civilians were killed and 16 others injured in the latest Russian bombardment.
The eastern region of Donetsk has been facing the most intensive Russian barrage for weeks. Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko reiterated his call for the evacuation of all residents.
“The shelling and shelling continues around the clock, and people who refuse to evacuate risk being killed on their pillows,” Kyrylenko said in televised remarks.
In Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv, three neighborhoods were heavily shelled. Several apartment buildings and a street market were damaged and three people were injured.
Russian shelling also targeted the city of Zaporizhzhia and several towns along the front line in the region. For a second consecutive day, the Russians also bombarded the town of Nikopol which faces the nuclear power station of Zaporizhzhia on the other side of the Dnieper. Dozens of homes were damaged.
Energoatom, which operates Ukrainian nuclear power plants, said that three shells fell in the evening on the territory of the Zaporizhzhia power plant, which is the largest in Europe. No casualties or damage to the reactors were reported.
“This is an open and bold crime, an act of terror,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.
The Russians also hit the southern city of Mykolaiv. Regional Governor Vitaliy Kim said Russian forces fired on the city after midday, causing extensive damage, killing an unknown number of people and injuring at least nine. He said the fire came from the direction of Kherson, the Russian-occupied city about 50 kilometers (30 miles) to the southeast.
Batrawy reported from Dubai.