Ukraine’s sea blockade threatens the new harvest

15-06-2022 | |
Photo: Canva
Photo: Canva

Ukraine is likely to face a lack of grain storage capacity for the new harvest in the second half of the year.

In October, Ukraine will have no space to store the 10 to 15 million tonnes of grain, Denis Shmigal, Ukrainian Prime Minister said in a statement shared through his social media channels.

To solve this issue, the Ukrainian Agrarian and Food Ministry is considering the establishment of mobile grain storage capacities, counting on help from Germany in this project, Shmigal said.

Insufficient land-based infrastructure

Ukraine has established 2 routes through Poland and Romania to export grain and avert a global food crisis although bottlenecks have slowed the supply chain, Dmitry Sennik, Kyiv’s deputy foreign minister told Reuters. He added that the country is working on a third route through the Baltic countries, though none of the available options is perfect.

It would take roughly 40 months to export the available grain stocks by land, Andriy Stavnitser, co-owner of the Ukrainian trader TIS, estimated. Export by land is restrained by insufficient infrastructure, which means there is no viable alternative to export by sea, he added.

In May, Ukraine exported more than 1.7 million tonnes of grain, oilseeds and processed agricultural products by all means of transport, the Ministry of Agrarian Policy estimated.

Historical Ukrainian grain had a quick turnaround

Ukraine will also not be able to store this grain for a long time, because the country’s grain industry is used to a rapid turnover of the grain stocks and there are not enough storage facilities in the country, Stavnitser said.

Concerns about grain quality

On the other hand, concerns are looming that grain stored for an extended period of time could have deteriorated quality.

No realistic options for grain export

Andriy Klymenko, head of the Institute for Black Sea Strategic Studies, expressed confidence that there is no realistic option in which Ukrainian grain will be exported by the sea while the war drags on.

“In the Kherson region and the Black Sea, active hostilities are underway. Therefore, it is impossible to imagine Russia withdrawing its ships to their bases and suspending sorties from Crimean airfields,” Klymenko said.

Grain as a hostage

Alexander Merezhko, a member of Verkhovna Rada, said that the port blockade is a part of Moscow’s game plan, and it is unlikely to be lifted, no matter what the UN or other parties involved would do.

“Firstly, this blockade allows Russia to economically destroy Ukraine. Secondly, Russia uses this for blackmail to demand serious concessions. In particular, the lifting of sanctions,” Merezhko said.

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