By Enyichukwu Enemanna
Three more ships carrying thousands of tons of corn on Friday left Ukrainian ports under the deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations with Russia and Ukraine, since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly six months ago.
Concerns however, have largely remained for the food to get to the countries that need it most.
The ships bound for Ireland, the United Kingdom and Turkey, are among the first grain shipment to pass through the Black Sea since the January invasion by the Russian forces.
Earlier this week, a shop load of grain to Lebanon was the first to depart. The Black Sea region is dubbed the world’s breadbasket, with Ukraine and Russia key global suppliers of wheat, corn, barley and sunflower oil that millions of people from Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia rely on for survival.
While the shipments have raised hopes of easing a global food crisis, much of the grain that Ukraine is trying to export is used for animal feed, not for people to eat, experts say.
The first vessels to leave are among more than a dozen bulk carriers and cargo ships that had been loaded with grain but stuck in ports since Russia invaded in late February. And the cargoes are not expected to have a significant impact on the global price of corn, wheat and soybeans for several reasons.
While Ukraine is a major exporter of wheat to developing nations, there are other countries, such as the United States and Canada, with far greater production levels that can affect global wheat prices. And they face the threat of drought.
“Ukraine is about 10% of the international trade in wheat, but in terms of production it is not even 5%,” said David Laborde, an expert on agriculture and trade at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington.
The three ships left Friday with over 58,000 tons of corn, but that is still a fraction of the 20 million tons of grains that Ukraine says are trapped in the country’s silos and ports and that must be shipped out to make space for this year’s harvest.
Around 6 million tons of the trapped grain is wheat, but just half of that is for human consumption, Laborde said.
There is an expectation that Ukraine could produce 30% to 40% less grain over the coming next 12 months due to the war, though other estimates put that figure at 70%.