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Major EU grain exporter pledges solidarity as drought hits crops

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Grains are unloaded from a barge inside the COMVEX grain terminal in Constanta harbour, in Constanta, Romania August 1, 2022. Inquam Photos/George Calin

Grains are unloaded from a barge inside the COMVEX grain terminal in Constanta harbour, in Constanta, Romania August 1, 2022. Inquam Photos/George Calin

Grains are unloaded from a barge inside the COMVEX grain terminal in Constanta harbour, in Constanta, Romania August 1, 2022. Inquam Photos/George Calin

Romania has enough wheat to avoid restricting exports this year, even as severe drought and a lack of irrigation systems hits crops, the prime minister said.

The country won't consider banning grain exports, as it did briefly at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, despite the lower production and increased protectionism over food security elsewhere, Premier Nicolae Ciuca said in an interview on Tuesday. Russia's war in neighboring Ukraine has increased the need for nations to help each other, he added.

"We will have enough wheat for exports this year, despite a decline in production, but we're still gathering data on the other crops and we're trying to see how we can help the farmers," Ciuca, 55, said in Bucharest, while declining to give an estimate on the harvest. "I don't think we'll need to instate a ban, because when you ask for solidarity, you also have to show solidarity."

The war has significantly undercut deliveries from Ukraine, which is typically one of the world's biggest wheat, corn and vegetable-oil suppliers, threatening food security for many developed nations that rely heavily on grain imports.

Romania was the largest exporter of corn in the European Union in the last season and the second-largest of wheat. It has also become the biggest conduit for grain from Ukraine since Russia invaded in February, moving cargoes by rail and water to the Black Sea port of Constanta to help export more than 1.3 million tons so far.

Ciuca's government plans to ramp up investments in irrigation to limit crop damage in the future after systematic neglect in past decades, said Ciuca. It will allocate almost 2 billion euros ($2 billion) for irrigation projects and is looking for lenience from Brussels to allow it to use a part of an EU package of pandemic recovery aid for agriculture and food safety.

He also said Constanta will continue to be a major artery for Ukrainian exports, even after the first ship carrying grain left the port of Odesa this week since Russia's attack. The government it working to extend the port's capacity to accommodate the rise in traffic, Ciuca said.

Bloomberg.

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