ISTANBUL, TURKEY — The Joint Coordination Centre, formed to facilitate the implementation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative that will allow grain to be shipped out of Ukraine, was officially inaugurated on July 27 in Istanbul, Turkey.

The Centre, comprised of representatives of Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations, has been formed as part of an agreement reached by Russia and Ukraine, which have been at war since Feb. 24, to allow grain and other foodstuffs and fertilizers, to exported from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

The Centre will monitor the movement of commercial vessels to ensure compliance with the initiative; focus on exporting bulk commercial grain and related food commodities only; ensure the on-site control and monitoring of cargo from Ukrainian ports; and report on shipments facilitated through the initiative.

Frederick J. Kenney Jr., who is leading the UN’s efforts on the ground in facilitating the parties’ efforts to operationalize the agreement, was present at the ceremony as the UN interim representative to the Centre.

“It is extremely encouraging to see the parties focusing on implementing the initiative,” he said. “Work at the Centre is non-stop with the aim to see the first shipments heading out of Ukrainian ports quickly, safely and effectively.”

In an interview with World Grain on July 26, Sergey Bratchuk, a spokesman for the Odesa military administration, said that for now “Turkey has taken full responsibility to protect this (shipping) corridor,” but that additional help will likely be needed to ensure safe passage for the grain ships.

“Hopefully (Turkey) will be able to handle it, but I truly believe that other NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) countries have to be involved to a much higher degree,” Bratchuk said.

Ukraine is a major grain exporter, last year supplying 11% of the world’s wheat exports, 12% of corn exports and 43% of sunflower oil exports. Since Russia’s February invasion, a naval blockade has prevented Ukraine from shipping grain out of its southern ports. The country has made a valiant effort to ship as much grain as possible via railways, roadways and rivers, but that has accounted for only a small percentage of its potential export total.

With one of the world’s biggest grain exporters on the sideline, global grain and food prices have soared during the last five months as has food insecurity, particularly in developing countries that are highly dependent on grain from the Black Sea region.