The amount of grain leaving Ukraine has significantly dropped even as an UN-brokered deal strives to keep the food flowing into the developing countries about a year into Russia’s invasion.
It comes through after examinations of vessels have fallen to half of what they were about four months back, and the vessel backlog has risen. The Joint Coordination Center mentions that food exports of Ukraine have dropped from 3.7 million metric tons, as observed in December, to three million in January 2023.
The hurdles appear as separate agreements to have the supplies sailing from the warring countries are reportedly coming up for renewal next month. Fewer grains outside Ukraine raise concerns regarding the impact on those staying hungry in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
The drop in the supply equates to almost a month of food consumption for Somalia and Kenya combined. It follows average examinations per day slowing to 5.7 last month and six this month, down from the peak of 10.6 in October.
That has somewhat helped lead to backups in the vessel number waiting in waters off Turkey to either join the Black Sea Grain Initiative or be checked. There are 152 ships in the line, and the Joint Coordination Center mentioned a 50% rise from January 2023.
This month, vessels have been waiting for an average of 28 days between filing applications to participate and being examined, informed Ruslan Sakhautdinov, the head of the Ukrainian delegation at the Joint Coordination Center. That is a week longer than what was in January.
Factors, including poor weather delaying the supervisor’s work, demand from shippers for joining the initiative, port activities, and capacity of ships, affect shipments.
US officials like Samantha Power, the USAID Administrator, and Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US Ambassador to the UN, blame Russia for such a slowdown, saying food supplies to the vulnerable countries are being purposely delayed.
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, and Oleksandr Kubrakov, the Infrastructure Minister, mentioned in a statement on Wednesday that Russian inspectors are systematically delaying vessel examination for months.
They further accused Moscow of hindering work under the deal and taking advantage of uninterrupted trade shipping from Russia’s Black Sea ports.
Global food prices, including wheat, had reportedly dropped back to levels observed before the war was launched in Ukraine after reaching highs in 2022.
In emerging economies dependent on imported food, such as Nigeria, weakening currencies are keeping prices high as they have been paying in dollars, per Osnato.
Droughts that have affected crops from the Americas to the Middle East indicated that food was expensive even before Russia had invaded Ukraine and exacerbated the ongoing food crisis, Osnato mentioned.
Prices are likely to remain high for over a year. What’s required now is good weather and crop seasons to grow more comfortable with global supplies across different grains and a significant decline in food prices worldwide.
References: VOA News, LA Times