KIEV, UKRAINE — French agricultural company, the Soufflet Group, signed on June 19 an investment agreement with Ukraine’s fourth largest sea port, state-owned Illichivsk, to upgrade infrastructure at the port, and build a grain terminal with up to 1.2 million tonnes of capacity.

Soufflet would also like to increase the depth of berths and improve the aquatic area near the port. The government plan includes leasing facilities to New World Grain Ukraine (NWG), Soufflet’s subsidiary, for 10-30 years as part of a competitive selection process to have foreign investors overhaul the country’s state-owned ports, Infrastructure Minister Andriy Pyvovarskiy told the Kyiv Post.

Minister of Agriculture and Food and Minister Alex Pavlenko said that the signing of the agreement is a positive signal to foreign investors. He stressed that these joint projects are extremely important and enhance export potential. He said Ukraine is one of the leading exporters and stressed that this year it exported a record 34 million tonnes of grain.

The port had 17.6 million tonnes of freight turnover last year, according to the State Statistics Service. However, its freight capacity exceeds 30 million tonnes and its 29 berths allow ships with tonnage of up to 100,000 tonnes to be handled.

Overall, Ukraine’s ports have the capacity to handle 262 million tonnes of freight yearly, whereas the total turnover last year was 144 million tonnes.

NWG is a joint venture of Australian agricultural group ABB Grain and Soufflet, a privately-owned French agricultural industrial group.