Ukraine: assessment of the UN Black Sea Grain Initiative & EU Solidarity Lanes

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The disruption of exports, specially of grain, as a consequence of the outbreak of the Ukrainian war in February 2022 triggered by Russia, severely affected global supply chains. In response, both the European Union and the United Nations organized a series of initiatives to ensure global food security, in fear that increasing figures of hunger and famine would spread worldwide. One month after the agreement to unblock Ukrainian ports, overview of the situation.

Since the ports in Ukraine had been blocked by Russian forces, the EU mobilized its Solidarity Lanes in search for other ways to export Ukraine’s agricultural products via alternative land routes and EU ports. These Solidarity Lanes have been able to unblock 2.8 million tons of grain in July, 2.5 in June, 2 in May and 1.3 in April (a total of around 8.6 million tons of grain). However, according to the last meeting held between the agriculture and transport committees in the European Parliament on July 11th, the initiative had failed to reach third countries.

Targeting third countries that have a considerable reliance on Ukrainian grain, constituted an important milestone for the EU Solidarity Lanes. Indeed, the countries that have been found to have the highest dependency on Ukrainian and Russian wheat imports, and therefore to be the most vulnerable to these market disruptions, are Somalia (100%), Benin (100%), Laos (94%), Egypt (82%), Sudan (75%), DR Congo (69%), Senegal (66%) and Tanzania (64%). As reported on July 11th, only 138,000 tonnes of wheat had been exported through Romania and Poland, which called for additional urgent measures.

The UN confronted this challenge initiating its Black Sea Grain Initiative, in coordination with representatives from Turkey, Russia and Ukraine. The first vessel that was able to leave Ukraine after months of blockade under this deal was the Razoni, on August 1st, 2022, carrying a total of 26,537 tons of corn. After that, many more followed under the authorization of the Joint Coordination Centre (JCC), established under the Black Sea Grain Initiative on July 27th, 2022.

Departure, PortDestinationNameCerealQuantity (in Metric Tonnes)
August 1st, OdesaTurkey/EgyptRazoniCorn26,537
August 5th, ChornomorskTeesport, UKRojenCorn13,041
August 5th, OdesaRingaskiddy, IrelandNavistarCorn33,000
August 5th, ChornomorskKarasu, TurkeyPolarnetCorn12,000
August 8th, PivdennyiRavenna, ItalySacuraSoybeans11,000
August 8th, ChornomorskIskenderun, TurkeyArizonaCorn48,459
August 9th, ChornomorskRepublic of Korea/SingaporeOcean LionCorn64,720
August 9th, ChornomorskIstanbul, TurkeyRahmi YagciSunflower meal 5,300
August 12th, PivdennyiBandar Imam Khomeini, IranStar LauraCorn60,150
August 12th, ChornomorskIstanbul/Tekirdag, TurkeySormovskiy 121Wheat3,050
August 13th, ChornomorskIskenderun, TurkeyFulmar SCorn12,000
August 13th, ChornomorskTekirdag, TurkeyThoeSunflower seeds2,914
August 16th, ChornomorskConstanza, RomaniaPropusWheat9,111
August 16th, PivdennyiDjibouti to EthiopiaBrave CommanderWheat23,000
August 16th, ChornomorskMersin or Iskenderun, TurkeyOsprey SCorn11,500
August 16th, ChornomorskKarasu, TurkeyRamusWheat6,161
August 16th, PivdennyiIncheon, Republic of KoreaBonitaCorn60,000
August 17th, ChornomorskAmsterdam, The NetherlandsPetrel SSunflower meal18,500
August 17th, OdesaIstanbul, TurkeySaraCorn8,000
August 17th, OdesaGubre, TurkeyEfeSunflower oil7,250
August 18th, ChornomorskIstanbul, TurkeyI MariaCorn27,982
August 20th, ChornomorskVenice, ItalyZumrut AnaSunflower oil6,300
August 20th, ChornomorskMarmara, TurkeyOcean SWheat25,000
August 21st, ChornomorskKunsan, South KoreaDa LiangSugar beet14,000
August 21st, OdesaTurkeyKubrosli YWheat10,000
August 21st, ChornomorskAliaga, TurkeyFilyozVegetable oil5,000
August 21st, PivdennyiMersin, TurkeyFoyleVegetable oil4,300
August 22nd, ChornomorskEgyptGreat ArsenalWheat25,500
August 22nd, ChornomorskGreeceMarantaCorn5,300
August 23rd, ChornomorskTurkeyKafkam EtlerCorn2,437
August 24th, OdesaLibyaGanosayaCorn16,500
August 24th, OdesaRotterdam, The NetherlandsZhe Hai 505Rapeseed29,600
August 25th, PivdennyiGermanyAscaniosCorn58,510
August 25th, OdesaIsraelMohamad YWheat11,000
August 25th, OdesaHaifa, IsraelBellisSoybeans6,000
August 26th, PivdennyiTekirdag, TurkeyOris SofiSunflower oil5,900
August 26th, ChornomorskMersin, TurkeyZelek StarPeas3,700
August 26th, ChornomorskPort Sudan, SudanSeaeagle  Wheat65,340
August 26th, ChornomorskEl Dekheila, EgyptPretty LadyCorn45,000
August 26th, ChornomorskCochin, IndiaAvivaSunflower oil19,100

Unblocking Ukrainian exports by sea was key to release the more than 20 million tons of grain (around 6.6 million tons of wheat, 13.6 million tons of corn and 400,000 tons of barley) that had been trapped in Ukraine´s ports, with a value of around $10bn.

The current situation indicates that the Black Sea Grain initiative has already exported a total of 1,3 million tons of grain and foodstuffs from the ports of Odesa, Chornomorsk and Pivdennyi. Therefore, since the start of the UN and EU initiatives, an accumulated total of around 10 million tons of cereals and oilseeds have been exported – which represents approximately half of the grains blocked at the start of the war.

The production of the new season is expected to decrease in Ukraine, affected by the loss of land due to the war and a 40% reduction in yields due to the lack of availability and access to agricultural inputs which will affect global food security. The Ukrainian Grain Growers Association (UGA) consider that the production of the 22/23 harvest season will stay at around 66.5 million tons of grain and oilseeds (compared to 84.6 million tons for the 21/22 season) while the USDA estimated around 52.2 million tons will be produced (25 million tons of corn, 21.5 million tons of wheat, and 5.7 million tons of barley).

Storage and developing new logistical pathways with the new harvest coming in remain a critical issue. It is estimated that Ukrainian farmers can count on 75 million tonnes of storage capacity under normal circumstances. According to the last FAO estimates, 30% of these storage capacities were filled by grain from the last harvest, while 14% of storage facilities were not functional due to damage or destruction, and another 10% due to Russian control in invaded areas, which means that there are currently around 35 to 45 million tonnes capacities, and a remaining gap in storage capacity between 10 and 20 million tonnes, which will be only partially covered by the joint initiative launched by Japan, Canada together with the UN.

Therefore, the mobilisation of Ukrainian farmers to keep growing food, with the support of the Solidarity lanes and other international initiatives under the UN coordination to keep the agricultural sector in Ukraine operational and in a position to export at least part of its capacities, together with the efforts to step up production in the European Union – and despite the dramatic weather conditions – and the various international initiative at global scale like the FARM and Global Alliance for Food Security initiatives are in a position in the short term to mitigate the impacts of the disruption in global food systems triggered by Russia.

Nevertheless, the mobilisation in the upcoming months will be critical to overcome the food security threat to the most affected importing countries, which call for strengthening logistic and improving coordination mechanism, including for the Solidarity Lanes, keeping the effort to increase the resilience and production capacity within the European Union while stepping up structural effort in developing countries to develop their capacity to produce food locally. A special attention to agricultural input, in particular fertilisers, will be needed as the disruption in fertiliser production might undermine dramatically the next harvest.

Before the EU and UN initiatives unblocking the Ukrainian exports, 22 million tonnes of ready-to-be-exported grain were blocked. The swift release of grain from the 21/22 season still stored in Ukraine will need to continue to be handled by these initiatives in the months ahead, with strengthened logistic and coordination mechanisms to ensure effectiveness, including better channeling grains depending on its quality and managing the impact of storage under difficult conditions, storage that needs to be further enhanced by 10 to 20 million tonnes.

According to the Ukrainian government, 3 million tonnes of grain in September and 4 more in October will be exported through Ukraine’s ports. However, it is also important to consider that Ukraine might perceive fewer inbound vessels due to fear of travelling across unsecured waters and the difficulties in finding insurances or, indeed, to unexpected conflict developments.