About 25 million tonnes of grains are stuck in Ukraine and unable to leave the country due to infrastructure challenges and blocked Black Sea ports, including Mariupol, said a UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) official on 6 May.
Ports on the Black Sea are blocked, leaving millions of metric tonnes of grain trapped in silos on land, or on ships that are unable to move. Unless ports reopen, Ukrainian farmers will have nowhere to store the next harvest in July and August, WFP said. The blockages are a reason behind high food prices skyrocketing in March.
Ukraine had been the world’s fourth largest exporter of maize (corn) in the 2020-21 season and the number six wheat exporter, according to International Grains Council data.
“It’s an almost grotesque situation we see at the moment in Ukraine with nearly 25 million tonnes of grain that could be exported but that cannot leave the country simply because of lack of infrastructure, the blockade of the ports,” Josef Schmidhuber, FAO Deputy Director, Markets and Trade Division told a Geneva press briefing via Zoom.
Another concern is reports that some grain storage had been destroyed in the fighting in Ukraine, he added, without giving details.
After Moscow’s “special military operation” beginning in late February, Ukraine has been forced to ship grain by train over is western border or from its small Danube River ports and not by sea.
“It would really help the world if we could evacuate this grain (from Ukraine),” said World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, adding, “There’s a serious risk of food prices going up and spiralling out of affordability that could lead to more hunger.”
A cargo carrying over 71,000 tonnes of Ukrainian corn finished loading in the Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta on 28 April, the first since Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February.
The World Food Programme (WFP) on May 5 said that ports in the Odesa area of southern Ukraine must be re-opened urgently to prevent the global hunger crisis from spinning out of control. This is important not only to feed many hungry people across the globe, but also avoid “mountains” of grain from going to waste.
“Right now, Ukraine’s grain silos are full. At the same time, 44 million people around the world are marching towards starvation. We have to open up these ports so that food can move in and out of Ukraine,” WFP Executive Director David Beasley said.