KYIV, UKRAINE — Ukraine’s grain exports were expected to reach 5.4 million to 5.5 million tonnes in September, up from 4.5 million tonnes in August, Reuters reported, citing the country’s agriculture ministry, which held a televised news conference Sept. 19. Before Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, Ukraine was exporting about 6 million tonnes a month.

Ukraine’s grain exports have slumped since the start of the war because its Black Sea ports, a key route for shipments, were blockaded by Russia, driving up global food prices and prompting fears of shortages in Africa and the Middle East.

Three Black Sea ports were unblocked at the end of July under a deal between Russia and Ukraine that was brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, known as the Black Sea Grain Initiative. The ministry’s data showed Ukraine exported 1.5 million tonnes of grain in the first 13 days of September, 34% less than the 2.3 million tonnes exported in the same period a year ago.

Ukraine has so far sent abroad around 3.9 million tonnes of food, mostly corn, under the initiative, the ministry noted during the news conference. Four ships left Ukraine on Sept. 19 carrying 178,780 tonnes of agricultural products, the country’s infrastructure ministry reported.

Ukraine has been scrambling to ship its grain through a variety of sea and land routes to make room for the new harvest as it also deals with infrastructure and storage capacity damaged by the war. Ukraine expects a 2022 grain crop of 50 million to 52 million tonnes, unchanged from the previous estimate and down from 86 million tonnes last year, the ministry said. 

Farmers have completed the 2022 wheat harvest, threshing around 19 million tonnes of the commodity in bunker weight, and about 5.5 million tonnes of barley, Deputy Agriculture Minister Taras Vysotskyi said. Ukraine, a major global producer and exporter of grain, harvested 32.2 million tonnes of wheat and 9.4 million tonnes of barley in 2021.