Three grain ships departed Ukrainian ports on Friday, while the first incoming cargo vessel since Russia’s invasion was scheduled to arrive, as Kyiv demanded that the safe passage agreement be extended to other goods such as metals.

The July 22 agreement was a rare diplomatic accomplishment in the midst of a war in eastern Ukraine, with Kyiv attempting to reconstruct its devastated economy after more than five months of warfare.

“We expect that the security guarantees of our partners from the U.N. and Turkey will continue to work, and food exports from our ports will become stable and predictable for all market participants,” Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov wrote on Facebook after the ships left.

On Monday, the first grain ship sailed from Odesa.

“This agreement is about logistics, about the movement of vessels through the Black Sea,” said Taras Kachka, Ukraine’s Deputy Economy Minister, to the Financial Times. “What’s the difference between grain and iron ore?”

Following U.N. warnings of probable outbreaks of starvation due to a stop in grain supplies from Ukraine across the Russian-dominated Black Sea, the United Nations and Turkey mediated the safe passage pact between Moscow and Kyiv.

According to Fahrettin Altun, a close advisor to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, the safe passage deal demonstrated the direct diplomacy between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Erdogan, who met again on Friday in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

“The international community cannot end the war in Ukraine by ignoring Russia,” he stated.

Putin ordered soldiers into Ukraine on February 24, igniting Europe’s worst war since World War II and fueling a worldwide oil and food catastrophe.

According to the Turkish defense ministry, two grain ships departed from Chornomorsk and one from Odesa on Friday, carrying a total of around 58,000 tonnes of maize.

The Turkish bulk carrier Osprey S, flying the Liberian flag, was set to arrive at Chornomorsk on Friday to carry grain, according to the Odesa regional government.

Russia and Ukraine have historically produced almost one-third of the world’s wheat, and Russia is Europe’s primary energy source. However, Ukraine’s grain exports are down 48.6 percent year on year so far this season, according to the agricultural ministry.

Ukraine intends to sell 20 million tonnes of grain in silos and 40 million tonnes from its fresh crop, according to economic consultant Oleh Ustenko. The government aims to make $10 billion from these quantities, but according to Ustenko, exporting them might take 20 to 24 months if ports are not running effectively. 

Ukraine’s Seaport Authority said on Monday that 68 ships were docked in Ukrainian ports, carrying 1.2 million tonnes of cargo, two-thirds of which was food.

Source: Reuters


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