MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — Australian grain growers showed their support for war-torn Ukraine with several standing ovations during the keynote address by Mykola Gorbachov, president of the Ukraine Grain Association, at last week’s Australian Grain Industry Conference (AGIC).

Gorbachev told the audience its war with Russia, which invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, will have a profound impact on the global grain market for several years to come.

One of the world’s largest wheat and corn exporters, Ukraine had not been able to export grain from its ports systems since the beginning of the war due to a Russian naval blockade. That changed on Aug. 1, thanks to an agreement signed on July 22 by both countries, as a grain ship left the Port of Odesa bound for Lebanon carrying 26,000 tonnes of corn. Ukraine is hoping to export roughly 20 million tonnes of grain through its ports systems in the coming months.

It marked the first time since 2019 that the AGIC was held in person, as the last two conferences were online events due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Andrew Goyder, chairman of Grain Trade Australia (GTA), which is co-sponsor of the annual event, said holding the conference in-person for the first time since 2022 was important for the industry.

 “Reconnecting has been a theme for GTA in 2022 and we have moved to achieve this objective through our very successful AGIC ASIA, the well-attended GTA 30th Anniversary dinner in Sydney at the end of March this year and the highly regarded and popular Grain Storage and Protection Conference a month ago,” Goyder said. “It is important to come together as an industry and its people as the impact of the past few years has created a toll on the grain industry and its communities. The conference theme of Growing with Grain may seem strange following two massive production years in Australia. However, it is apt given we are looking at a worldwide food security issue driven mainly by the conflict in Ukraine and the limited export supply to the traditional customers of Black Sea grain.”

After several years of severe declines in wheat production due to drought, Australia has enjoyed record-breaking harvests the last two years and is projected to have another bumper crop in 2022-23.

In his opening address, Murray Watt, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry & Minister for emergency Management, said the new federal government has a strong focus on the agricultural industry, and in particular the grain sector, and appreciated the need to address strategic supply chain opportunities to continue to develop and grow what is a world-leading grains sector in this country.

He emphasized the importance of international cooperation and the continued need to focus on ensuring trade between countries can continue unimpeded and based on market principles.