NEW YORK, NEW YORK, US — Exports under the Black Sea Grain Initiative have reached 17.8 million tonnes from August through mid-January, according to the United Nations (UN).

The grain and other food products have been exported to 42 countries, said Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman during a Jan. 18 briefing.

December exports totaled 3.7 million tonnes, up from 2.6 million tonnes in November. In the last two weeks, nearly 1.2 million tonnes of food have been moved from Ukrainian Black Sea ports, Haq said.

“However, unfavorable weather conditions both in Odesa ports as well as in Turkish inspection areas have curbed some movements recently,” he said.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative is an agreement between Russia and Ukraine made with Turkey and the UN following Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine. On July 24, the initiative restarted the movement of grain and agricultural products on the Black Sea, which had stopped due to Russia’s blockade that sparked fears of a global food shortage. The deal was extended 120 days in late November.

China is the primary recipient of the exports, followed by Spain and Turkey, according to information from the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC). Nearly 44% of the exported wheat has been shipped to low and lower-middle income countries and 64% to developing economies.

The World Food Programme bought 8% of the total wheat exported under the initiative in 2022.

Haq said more than 1,300 voyages have been enabled by the JCC and there are more than 100 vessels in Turkish waters with 32 waiting for inspection. The rest have applied to participate in the initiative.

“Since November, the JCC has been deploying three inspection teams daily,” Haw said. “So far, this month, the teams conclude an average of 5.3 inspections per day. In the last two weeks, the average waiting time of vessels between application and inspection is 21 days.”

The UN said it urges all parties to work to remove obstacles for the reduction of the backlog and improve operational efficiencies within the JCC, he said.