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Ukraine in race to export millions of tonnes of grain as businesses struggle to bypass blockades

US accuses Putin of using food to “blackmail” the world 

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The turret of a destroyed tank sits in a wheat field in the Chernihiv region of Ukraine

The turret of a destroyed tank sits in a wheat field in the Chernihiv region of Ukraine

The turret of a destroyed tank sits in a wheat field in the Chernihiv region of Ukraine

Amid the carnage, bloodshed and death in Ukraine, a new tragedy is looming, as businesses in the war-torn country increasingly fear they may soon have to start throwing away food the world desperately needs.

Hopes are fading among Ukrainian business leaders that Vladimir Putin will lift a blockade on the Black Sea ports before the harvest begins in just a few weeks, as silos that are already filled with grain begin to reach capacity.

Russian and Turkish defence ministers have discussed a potential humanitarian corridor to allow grain out of the country by sea, but no deal has been done and time is running out. Further talks are scheduled for this week.

UK farming minister Victoria Prentis called yesterday for an investigation into allegations that Russia had been stealing grain. She told the International Grains Council (IGC) conference in London she had heard serious allegations of grain theft first-hand from sources in Ukraine’s southern region of Kherson.

Ukraine has accused Russia of selling the stolen food to Turkey, an allegation the Kremlin denies.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s farmers and logistics firms are fighting an increasingly desperate battle to export food by road and rail, amid surging prices for fuel and a shortage of trucks and drivers – many of whom are now fighting off Russian forces on the front line.

This week, the US accused Putin of using food to “blackmail” the world after the Kremlin said it would consider opening up a humanitarian corridor only if western sanctions on Russia were lifted.

The winter harvest, which starts next month, could exhaust storage capacity unless the ports open. That outcome could see a further surge in prices for staple products such as wheat, of which Ukraine is a leading exporter.

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If a deal is not reached, the world could suffer food shortages, with parts of Africa and the Middle East particularly exposed, the UN has warned.

Anastassia Sobotiuk, director of MHP, one of Ukraine’s leading agribusinesses, said many producers were now able to export only “insignificant” amounts of grain on trucks and railways.

“The biggest problem all exporters or logistics companies are facing is a shortage of diesel in Ukraine. The price has jumped by around 70pc,” Ms Sobotiuk said.

Shifting goods by railway is “very challenging” because Russian rockets continue to destroy infrastructure, including tracks and bridges.

“The passage is further complicated because Ukraine uses a Soviet railway gauge wider than neighbouring countries, meaning goods have to be removed and reloaded at the border.

“For companies like ours, it takes additional time to deliver the products either to the border of Ukraine or to the final customer or to the port, as new routes have to be developed in this case,” Ms Sobotiuk said. (© Independent News Service)

   


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