Nearly 25 million tons of grain is stuck in Ukraine, unable to leave the country due to infrastructure problems and blocked Black Sea ports, including Mariupol, a UN food agency official said on Friday (May 6).
The blockades are believed to be a factor behind high food prices, which hit a record high in March following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine before easing slightly in April, the FAO said on Friday.
According to data from the International Grains Council, Ukraine was the world’s fourth largest exporter of maize (maize) and the sixth largest exporter of wheat in the 2020/21 season.
“It is an almost grotesque situation that we are currently seeing in Ukraine, with almost 25 million tons of grain that could be exported but cannot leave the country simply because of the lack of infrastructure, the blockade of the ports”, Josef Schmidhuber, FAO deputy director said the Department of Markets and Trade at a press conference in Geneva via Zoom.
Schmidhuber said the full silos could lead to storage bottlenecks for the next harvest in July and August.
“Despite the war, the harvest conditions don’t look that bad. This could really mean that the storage capacity in Ukraine is not enough, especially if no wheat corridor opens for export from Ukraine,” he said.
Another concern is reports that some grain stores have been destroyed in the fighting in Ukraine, he added, without giving details.
Since Moscow launched a so-called “special military operation” in late February, Ukraine has been forced to export grain by train across the western border or from its small ports on the Danube rather than by sea.
Earlier this week, the head of the World Trade Organization told Reuters she was “seriously concerned” about rising food prices and was working with other partners to find solutions.
“It would really help the world if we could evacuate this grain (from Ukraine),” Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said. “There is a serious risk that food prices will rise and fall out of affordability, which could lead to even more hunger.”
A cargo of over 71,000 tons of Ukrainian corn was loaded in the Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta on April 28, the first since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
(Edited by Georgi Gotev)