MADRID, SPAIN — Spain has launched a pilot project testing the viability of using rail to import grain from Ukraine, Spain’s Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda announced Aug. 10.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 has severely disrupted Ukrainian grain exports, hampered harvests and trapped about 22 million tonnes of wheat and other agricultural products in Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

The ministry said it is studying the technical and economic feasibility of regularly shipping grain from Ukraine through the railway system that crosses Europe from Lodz, Poland, to Barcelona Can Tunis, Spain. 

As part of the project, a Renfe freight train consisting of 25 containers, each measuring 40 feet and fitted with special liners for transporting grain, left Madrid late Aug. 9 for the Polish town of Chelm near the Ukrainian border. The train will travel 1,500 miles to Chelm, where it will collect 600 tonnes of corn and return to Barcelona in early September, according to the ministry.

On July 22, Russia and Ukraine signed a United Nations-backed deal brokered by Turkey to lift Moscow’s naval blockade of Black Sea ports and help release millions of tonnes of blocked grain to avert a global food crisis. A total of 12 ships have so far left three different Ukrainian Black Sea ports since then.

With the reopening of the Black Sea ports, the Spanish project also will help “to analyze the capacity of land transport to support maritime routes,” the ministry said.

Spain Ukraine grain rail map