First cargo vessels arrive in Ukraine since Russia ended a grain deal

The Russia-Ukraine added to the woes of the global supply chain industry by not only altering geopolitics but also because of its far-reaching consequences on global food security. Among the many disruptions it created, one of the most severe was to the agricultural supply chains. Russia’s termination of the grain deal in July had led to a de facto blockade on Ukrainian cargo ships. This deal, which allowed Kyiv to export food crops across the Black Sea, was seen as critical in maintaining stability in global food prices.

Since then, the arrival of the first cargo vessels – the bulk carrier Aroyat and the cargo vessel Resilient Africa – at a Ukrainian port has given significant hope to global food supply chains, particularly affecting countries in Africa and the Middle East. These vessels are expected to transport approximately 22,000 tons of wheat to African and Asian countries.

This is because Ukraine’s grain exports hold immense importance, especially in regions grappling with food shortages. It also serves as a vital source of foreign exchange apart from playing a crucial role in global food markets.

“First civilian vessels use the temporary corridor to reach Ukrainian ports. The vessels fly the flags of Palau, and their crew consists of citizens of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Egypt and Ukraine.”

Oleksandr Kubrakov, Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister,

Both ships hugged the coast once they entered Ukrainian waters Saturday, according to data from the Marine Traffic website. Resilient Africa had set off from the Romanian port of Constanta, while Aroyat had departed from a port in Turkey.

The war has not only disrupted maritime routes but also targeted grain facilities and ports. Russia’s actions have forced Ukraine to seek alternative transportation methods, like road and rail through EU countries, although this comes with its own set of complications.

The impact of the Russia-Ukraine war on agricultural supply chains extends to the risky establishment of secure corridors for cargo vessels. The Black Sea, a central theater in the conflict, has made this endeavor perilous, as Ukraine contests Russia’s naval dominance. Also, Russia has struck Ukraine’s Danube River ports at Izmail and Reni, which are increasingly used as an alternative to the main ports along the Black Sea.

Talks to revive the grain deal have yet to bear fruit, and, in the interim, Ukraine has sought a unilateral means of facilitating its exports. Agriculture experts say that, while Ukraine has been able to increase the volume of goods it transports through the Danube River ports, the process is not without risks and is more expensive, thus weakening a vital sector of Ukraine’s economy.

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