Trains haul Ukraine grain as urgent call made to reopen ports

11-05-2022 | |
Ukraine grain arriving at a depot. Photo: FAO
Ukraine grain arriving at a depot. Photo: FAO

Trains have started to haul Ukrainian grain into Europe in a bid to get its exports up and running while the Russians continue to block the main ports in the south of the country.

The first train with 2,000 tonnes of corn from Ukraine onboard arrived in Austria on Friday signalling the start of many journeys scheduled to take place each month.

Austria’s farming minister, Elisabeth Koestinger, said the shipment “marked the establishment of a green corridor for important cargo shipments between the 2 countries.”

Up to 60,000 tonnes of grain will now be sent to Austria from Ukraine every month, on top of those being sent to Germany.

WFP calls for reopening of Ukraine’s ports

The move comes as the World Food Programme (WFP) has called for an urgent reopening of Ukraine’s main ports on the Black Sea to try and prevent further world hunger.

Since Russia started the war with Ukraine on February 24, several major exporting ports in Ukraine have been blocked and most are sitting full of last year’s grain harvest.

Prior to the war, most of the food produced in Ukraine was exported through the country’s seven Black Sea ports. Over 50 million tonnes of grain was exported through these ports in the 8 months before the war began, and exports were enough to feed 400 million people worldwide.

Record highs for commodity prices

The disruption caused by the war has already pushed food commodity prices well above record highs reached earlier this year. In March, export prices for wheat and maize rose 22% and 20%, respectively, on top of steep increases in 2021 and early 2022.

Right now, Ukraine’s grain silos are full

Mountains of grain going to waste

The WFP has called for the ports to be reopened urgently to allow the grain to get to those that need it and to empty the silos so Ukraine farmers have somewhere to store this year’s harvest.

The move would allow for food produced in the war-torn country to flow freely to the rest of the world as well as avoid mountains of grain from going to waste.

Some 276 million people around the globe were already facing acute hunger at the beginning of the year. That number could rise by 47 million if the war continues, according to the WFP, with the steepest rises in sub-Saharan Africa.

We’re running out of time and the cost of inaction will be higher than anyone can imagine

World hunger crisis

WFP Executive Director David Beasley said: “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.

“The world demands it because hundreds of millions of people globally depend on these supplies. We’re running out of time and the cost of inaction will be higher than anyone can imagine.

“I urge all parties involved to allow this food to get out of Ukraine to where it’s desperately needed so we can avert the looming threat of famine,” he said.

Unless ports reopen, Ukrainian farmers will have nowhere to store the next harvest in July and August, the WFP said.

WFP added: “The result will be mountains of grain going to waste while WFP and the world struggle to deal with an already catastrophic global hunger crisis.”

WFP has also felt the impact as soaring prices for food and fuel have hiked operational costs by up to $71 million a month, or equivalent to providing nearly 4 million people with a daily ration for one month, thus affecting the agency’s ability to respond to hunger crises around the world.

Chris McCullough Freelance multi-media journalist