Blocking Ukrainian ports and stopping food exports from Ukraine became one of the key global challenges in the context of Russian aggression against Ukraine.
On July 22, 2022, an agreement was signed in Istanbul to unblock Ukrainian ports for the export of grain. The document is entitled “Initiative for safe transportation of grain and food products from Ukrainian ports.”
During the war, the grain maritime corridor provides 60 percent of all grain and food exports from Ukraine. This is extremely important on a global scale because Ukraine provides food for 400 million people around the world, and this is not the limit.
In November 2022, the “Initiative for safe transportation of agricultural products across the Black Sea” was extended for another 120 days. The United Nations and Turkey remained guarantors of the Initiative.
It should be noted that Ukrainian agricultural exports today remain an effective tool for countering the global food crisis. In total, since the start of the “Grain Corridor” from August 1 to December 22, 2022, Ukraine managed to export 14.2 million tons of food. Food has been sent to Asia, Africa and Europe. During the operation of the “Grain Corridor,” more than 400 ships with cargo departed from Ukraine.
It is important to emphasize the humanitarian role played by the “Grain Corridor,” especially in the context of food supplies to countries in Africa and Asia. Regarding the geographical structure of exports, the share of Africa in the total structure of wheat shipments is more than 27 percent. And 23 percent of wheat was exported to countries suffering from a humanitarian crisis. As part of the U.N. World Food Programme, six ships with 190,080 tons of cargo left Ukrainian ports.
The effect of the grain agreement has a positive effect on world food prices and is a kind of market indicator. The reduction in the cost of food and the increase in its availability thanks to the grain initiative have had a positive effect on overcoming the current challenges of the global food crisis. Food becomes more accessible to those who are one step away from a humanitarian disaster.
The “Grain Corridor” also had a positive impact on the economic situation of farmers in Ukraine. Improving exports made it possible to obtain funds for harvesting late crops—including sunflower, soybeans, and corn—and to partially form the necessary reserves for spring field work. Accordingly, the preservation of the “Grain Corridor” is key for Ukraine. It is important for the entire Ukrainian economy. Export statistics show that from September to October 2022, 65 percent of all Ukrainian exports were agricultural products.
The experience of October and November 2022 showed that the stable operation of the corridor allows exporting 6-7 million tons of products per month. If such volumes are realized, then this is enough for Ukrainian producers, as well as to ensure international food security. At the same time, Russia is constantly trying to slow down the work of the “Grain Corridor” so it does not work in full.
Russian troops attacked the port of Odesa the day after the grain agreement was signed. On October 29, Russia announced that it was withdrawing its participation in the grain agreement allegedly because of the attack on the ships of the Black Sea Fleet. But even after this statement, ships with agricultural products continued to leave Ukrainian ports, and their inspection took place much faster without the participation of the Russian side. On November 2, Russia announced its intention to resume participation in the agreement. Russian blackmail regarding the grain initiative proved fruitless.
At the same time, this once again emphasizes the need to completely unblock the Black Sea with the need to guarantee global food security. As practice has shown, the only guarantee of safety in the Black Sea and food safety in the world is a strong and well-armed Ukrainian Navy and joint patrolling of the Black Sea by NATO ships.
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