KYIV, UKRAINE — With the Black Sea Grain Initiative set to expire on March 18, Ukraine is asking Turkey and the United Nations, co-brokers of the agreement with Russia, to start talks this week to extend the deal by at least one year and to include the Port of Mykolaiv, Reuters reported on Feb. 22.
The deal, which was struck last July and extended in November, has allowed grain and other agricultural products to move from the Port of Odesa despite the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago and blockaded Ukrainian ports for five months prior to signing an agreement that allowed grain to be shipped from the Port of Odesa unimpeded.
During the period when Ukraine, one of the world’s top wheat and corn exporters, was unable to ship its grain by sea, global grain prices skyrocketed. Even with the deal in place, Ukraine is exporting far less grain than it had in the years prior to the invasion, and its production has been hampered by the war that is taking place on Ukrainian soil.
Yuriy Vaskov, Ukraine’s deputy minister of restoration, told Reuters that Ukraine would insist on an increase in the number of inspection teams to “eliminate the accumulation of vessels waiting for inspection.” Ukraine has accused Russia of delaying inspections of grain ships, a charge that Russia has denied.
Since the deal began, Ukraine has exported approximately 3 million tonnes of agricultural products per month, but Vaskov told Reuters that number could increase substantially if Russia agrees to allow shipments out of the Port of Mykolaiv. The port accounted for 35% of Ukraine’s food exports prior to the invasion.
Grain production in Ukraine declined from 86 million tonnes in 2021 to 54 million tonnes last year, while the country’s grain exports are forecast to decline by 28% in the 2022-23 marketing year to 30.3 million tonnes.