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28th May 2022

EU to help Ukraine export grain — amid food shortages fears

  • The Russian blockade of Ukraine's Black Sea ports has prompted the EU to find alternative routes to prevent a major food crisis (Photo: Jon Bunting)
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Emergency plans to help shift stranded wheat and grain in Ukraine's besieged ports were unveiled by the European Commission on Thursday (12 May) — amid fears that the war will create a global food crisis.

"Bringing more agricultural products on the world markets is crucial to address mounting global food insecurity resulting from Russia's invasion of Ukraine and its devastating consequences," the EU executive said in its proposal.

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Ukraine is one of the world's biggest exporters of agricultural goods, accounting for over 12 percent of the world's wheat, 15 percent of corn and 50 percent of sunflower oil, most of which are normally exported by sea.

But the Russian blockade of Ukraine's Black Sea ports could result in the loss of tens of millions of tonnes of grain, triggering a major food crisis.

Nearly 40 million tonnes of grains are currently stuck in Ukraine and at least 20 million tonnes should be exported by the end of July using the EU infrastructure, according to commission estimates.

"This is a gigantesque challenge, so it is essential to coordinate and optimise the logistic chains, put in place new routes, and avoid, as much as possible, bottlenecks," said the EU commissioner for transport Adina Vălean.

Under the EU plan, alternative routes — also called "solidarity lines" — would be mainly organised by roads, rivers and channels. The idea is also to secure more capacity by temporary storage of Ukraine's exports in EU countries.

To transport such big volumes of agricultural goods, the EU executive has called on operators to make additional vehicles available, prioritise Ukrainian agricultural export through freight corridors and make available the necessary rail slot for such exports.

It also called on companies to urgently transfer mobile grain loaders to the relevant border terminals in order to speed up transhipment.

A dedicated platform would be also set up to organise transport operations between Ukraine and EU member states and optimise cargo flows. National authorities have been told to apply the "maximum flexibility" at border crossing points to accelerate procedures.

The EU Commission will also look into financial guarantees for companies to insure the trucks and vehicles sent into Ukraine and compensate them for potential losses.

Thousands of railway vehicles and lorries are currently stuck on the Ukrainian side, with good wagons facing long waiting times of up to 30 days at some EU-Ukraine border crossing points.

Differing rail gauge widths, which make Ukrainian wagons incompatible with rail networks in most EU member states, was identified by the EU Commission as one of the main obstacles to the re-routing of Ukrainian exports.

But the EU Commission has pledged to improve the existing infrastructure between the EU and Ukraine and create new corridors connecting the EU to Ukraine and Moldova as part of its efforts to support the reconstruction of Ukraine.

EU urged to grow more wheat to avert food crisis

European agriculture ministers have called for higher domestic farm output, amid food security worries, and a looming food crisis in Africa. Many African countries, eg Benin, Egypt, Sudan, Madagascar, and Burundi, are almost entirely, or exclusively, dependent on Ukrainian grain.

EU states warn of looming food-price crisis

Prices of cereals, fertilisers, and oilseed have shot up drastically in several European markets due to Russia's war on Ukraine, prompting some member states to seek EU aid.

Hungary wants EU billions for Russia oil-ban deal

Hungary is continuing to block an EU oil embargo on Russia, but there is optimism its objections can soon be overcome — perhaps within a few days to "a week or two", according to some EU foreign ministers.

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