Ukrainian grain shipments drop as ship backups grow
The amount of grain leaving Ukraine has dropped even as a U.N.brokered deal works to keep food flowing to developing nations, with inspections of ships falling to half what they were four months ago and a backlog of vessels growing as Russia's invasion nears the one-year mark.
Ukrainian and some U.S. officials are blaming Russia for slowing down inspections, which Moscow has denied. Less wheat, barley and other grain getting out of Ukraine, dubbed the “breadbasket of the world, “raises concerns about the impact to those going hungry in Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia — places that rely on affordable food supplies from the Black Sea region.
The hurdles come as separate agreements brokered last summer by Turkey and the U.N. to keep supplies moving from the warring nations and reduce soaring food prices are up for renewal next month. Russia is also a top global supplier of wheat, other grain, sunflower oil and fertilizer, and officials have complained about the holdup in shipping the nutrients critical to crops.
Under the deal, food exports from three Ukrainian ports have dropped from 3.7 million metric tons in December to 3 million in January, according to the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul. That's where inspection teams from Russia, Ukraine, the U.N. and Turkey ensure ships carry only agricultural products and no weapons.
The drop in supply equates to about a month of food consumption for Kenya and Somalia combined. It follows average inspections per day slowing to 5.7 last month and 6 so far this month, down from the peak of 10.6 in October.
That has helped lead to backups in the number of vessels waiting in the waters off Turkey to either be checked or join the Black Sea Grain Initiative. There are 152 ships in line, the JCC said, a 50% increase from January.
This month, vessels are waiting an average of 28 days between applying to participate and being inspected, said Ruslan Sakhautdinov, head of Ukraine's delegation to the JCC. That's a week longer than in January.