We recently reported that the Britain is trying to help move grain out of Ukraine. Well the UK is not alone in this of course and we can see a big effort from the United Nations (UN) as well.
The grain is not getting out of the ports
Before the war, Ukraine was the fourth-largest grain exporter in the world. Now it is estimated that up to 20 million tonnes of grain cannot be taken out of the country. This truly enormous amount would solve the food security issue for many countries and help slow down the very rapidly rising food prices.
Among other things, there is the problem of Russian naval forces still blocking Ukrainian ports and gunning for food supplies. Russia is demanding the lifting of Western sanctions as part of a deal that would allow exports from Ukraine to flow again. Even if an agreement were reached and the troops withdrew, hundreds of mines are reportedly planted around the Black Sea.
Mines around the Black Sea
The Black Sea is crucial for shipping grain, oil, and petroleum products. Its waters are shared by Bulgaria, Romania, Georgia, and Turkey, as well as Ukraine and Russia. But there are now hundreds of mines in its vicinity, which are a major complication in the whole process of trying to export grain. The removal of these mines could take several months.
A spokesman for the UN maritime agency said.
“Naval mines have been laid on the approaches to the ports and some exits from the ports are blocked by sunken barges and cranes.”
Global pressure on food prices
Hunger and rising food prices around the world are reaching enormous levels. Countries that are major world producers are restricting exports of their commodities in an effort to protect their domestic markets. In the case of wheat, we have seen an unexpected ban on exports by India, whose wheat has subsequently begun to pile up at ports and, under the threat of heavy rains, may allow some traders to export again.
Further restrictions were seen on palm oil where the world’s largest producer Indonesia had an export ban in place for 3 weeks. It has now resumed exports and so this controversial commodity is now being exported out of the country again.
There are, of course, more problems around the world, and any major supply of food to countries that are not large producers is a lifeline. So we shall see how the situation in Ukraine develops further and whether wheat can be got out of port.