ISTANBUL (AP) — Three more ships carrying thousands of tons of corn left Ukrainian ports Friday and traveled through mined waters to inspect their delayed cargo, a sign that an international agreement to export grains has since held. Russia invaded Ukraine it was progressing slowly. But the main obstacles lie ahead for bring food to countries that need it most.
Ships bound for Ireland, the United Kingdom and Turkey remain the first shipment of grain pass through the Black Sea since the beginning of the war. The passage of that ship bound for 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 freighters loaded months ago but stuck in ports since Russia invaded in late February. While the resumption of shipments has raised hopes of easing a global food crisis, much of the backed cargo is for animal feed, not for people to eat, experts say.
The Black Sea region is called the barn of the worldwith Ukraine and Russia as the world’s leading suppliers of wheat, corn, barley and sunflower oil that millions of impoverished people in africaMiddle East and parts of Asia trust to survive.
However, the initial shipments are not expected to have a significant impact on the world price of corn, wheat and soybeans. To begin with, the exports under the deal are off to a slow and cautious start due to the threat of explosive mines floating off the Black Sea coast of Ukraine.
And while Ukraine is a major exporter of wheat to developing countries, there are other countries, such as the United States and Canada, with much higher production levels that may affect world wheat prices. and face the drought threat.
“Ukraine accounts for about 10% of international wheat trade, but in terms of production it is not even 5%,” said David Laborde, an agriculture and trade expert at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington.
The three ships that left on Friday were accompanied by Ukrainian pilot boats for safe passage due to explosive mines scattered in the Black Sea. The ships left with more than 58,000 tons of corn, but that is still a fraction of the 20 million tons of grain that Ukraine says are trapped in the silos and ports of the country and that must be shipped to make room for this year’s harvest.
About 6 million tons of the trapped grain is wheat, but only half is for human consumption, Laborde said.
There is an expectation that Ukraine could produce 30-40% less grain over the next 12 months due to the war, although other estimates put that figure at 70%.
Grain prices peaked after the Russian invasion, and while some have since dropped to their pre-war levels, they remain higher than before the COVID-19 pandemic. Corn prices are 70% higher than they were at the end of February 2020, said Jonathan Haines, a senior analyst at data and analytics firm Gro Intelligence. He said that wheat prices are about 60% higher than in February 2020.
“When fertilizer prices are high, farmers can use less fertilizer. And when they use less fertilizer, they will produce less. And if they are going to produce less, the supply will continue to be insufficient,” Laborde said.
The three ships that left Ukraine on Friday give hope that exports will increase to developing countries, where many face increased threat of food shortages and hunger.
“The movement of three additional ships overnight is a very positive sign and will continue to build confidence that we are moving in the right direction,” Haines said. “If the flow of grain from Ukraine continues to expand, it will help ease global supply constraints.”
The Turkish-flagged Polarnet, carrying 12,000 tons of corn, left the port of Chornomorsk for Karasu, Turkey. The Panamanian-flagged Navi Star left the port of Odessa bound for Ireland with 33,000 tons of corn. 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, run by officials from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the UN that oversees the deal signed in Istanbul last month, cleared the three ships and inspected one ship bound for Ukraine. The Barbados-flagged Fulmar S was inspected in Istanbul and is headed to the port of Chornomorsk.
The controls seek to ensure that departing cargo ships only carry grain, fertilizer or food and not other basic products and that arriving ships do not carry weapons.
After Turkey helped negotiate the food deal two weeks ago, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with russian president vladimir putin in Sochi, Russia, on Friday. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the meeting would allow Putin and Erdogan to review the implementation of the grain deal and discuss the prospects for talks to end the fighting in Ukraine.
In other developments on Friday, Ukraine’s presidential office said at least eight civilians were killed and 16 others wounded in the latest Russian bombardment.
The eastern Donetsk region has faced the most intense Russian bombardment for weeks. Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko repeated his call to evacuate all residents.
“The shelling and shelling is happening 24 hours a day, and people who refuse to evacuate are at risk of dying on their pillows,” Kyrylenko said in televised remarks.
In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, three districts have been subjected to massive shelling. 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 the second day in a row, the Russians also bombed the city of Nikopol, which lies across the Dnieper River from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Dozens of houses were damaged.
The Russians also attacked the southern city of Mykolaiv. Regional Governor Vitaliy Kim said Russian forces fired into the city after lunchtime, causing extensive damage, killing an unspecified number of people and wounding at least nine. He said the fire came from Kherson, the Russian-occupied city about 50 kilometers (30 miles) to the southeast.
Batrawy reported from Dubai.