Ukrainian grain on a cargo ship arrives in Romania | ET REALITY


Ukraine took two bold steps on Tuesday to secure export routes for its vital grain industry: sending a ship loaded with wheat along a new Black Sea route in the face of Russian naval aggression and defying one of its key allies, Poland , for his opposition to Ukrainian imports.

In a first success, the Resilient Africa ship, loaded with 3,000 tons of wheat, crossed the maritime border into Romanian waters on Tuesday afternoon. She arrived more than 12 hours after leaving the Ukrainian port of Chornomorsk, according to the MarineTraffic websitewhich tracks global shipping using satellite data.

The importance of establishing a new sea route grew even more this week amid a renewed dispute between Ukraine and its European Union grain-producing neighbors over land exports.

But while Resilient Africa appears to have safely emerged from Ukrainian waters, experts say there is still much uncertainty about whether the country will be able to rebuild a vital industry strained by 19 months of war.

The ship, sailing under the Palau flag, is the first grain ship to leave a Ukrainian Black Sea port since July, when Moscow ended an agreement that for a year had allowed Ukraine to export its grain directly through waters dominated by the Russian fleet from the Black Sea to Turkey and the Bosphorus.

According to the new route, outlined by the Kiev government, the ships will skirt the coast before entering the waters of Romania and then Bulgaria, both NATO members. Ukraine’s infrastructure minister, Oleksandr Kubrakov, described it as a corridor “established by the Ukrainian Navy.”

The risks are important.

In July, Moscow warned that it would consider any commercial ship approaching a Ukrainian port as a possible carrier of military cargo. The following month, the Russian Navy fired warning shots at a cargo ship and then boarded it at gunpoint for an inspection. And since July, Russia has bombed the Ukrainian port of Odessa as well as the country’s Danube River ports, specifically targeting grain facilities.

Beyond that, the Black Sea itself is expanding as a theater of conflict between Ukraine and Russia, which launched its full-scale invasion of its neighbor in February 2022.

Amid attacks on military targets by both sides across large stretches of water, the success of Ukraine’s new export route may depend on the willingness of commercial shipping companies to risk their vessels, according to Sal Gilbertie, CEO of Teucrium, a US-based company. investment advisory firm.

“The corridor is a good idea, but I think it is a test of what the Russians will allow” in the Black Sea, he said.

Ukrainian officials say Moscow’s effort to thwart its food crop exports is just one part of a broader Russian war on its economy that has run parallel to its invasion. Many Ukrainians say the Kremlin’s ultimate goal is to crush their country as a nation state.

Over the past 19 months, Ukraine, with the cooperation of the European Union, has increased its grain exports by land, as well as shipments from its ports on the Danube River. But the effort has been complicated by resistance from farmers in neighboring countries, who say Ukrainian crops arriving by road and rail are undercutting domestic producers.

In the latest showdown, the governments of Poland, Hungary and Slovakia said this week they would defy a decision by Brussels to lift a temporary ban on imports of Ukrainian grain. In response, Ukraine filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization against the three countries.

The tension has particularly complicated kyiv’s relationship with the Warsaw government, one of its most aggressive supporters.

With less than a month to go until Poland’s election, his conservative ruling party, Law and Justice, which is ahead in the polls, has struggled to shore up two vital pillars of support: voters deeply hostile to Russia and proud of their country’s role. as a pivotal country of Western support for Ukraine; and a rural base furious at competition from cheap Ukrainian grain.

Speaking on Monday after Kiev submitted its appeal to the World Trade Organization, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki pledged strong support for Ukraine but – blaming Russia for the grain crisis – also promised to protect farmers. Poles.

Poland, which insists it will not block the transit of Ukrainian goods, only their sale on the domestic market, said it was “not impressed” by Ukraine’s appeal to the WTO and would not change course. But he avoided controversial statements against kyiv.

Ukrainian authorities say they are willing to defuse the issue, and on Tuesday Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal outlined what he called a “compromise scenario.”

“We have already submitted to the European Commission an action plan to control the export of four groups of agricultural products from Ukraine,” he said on the Telegram messaging app.

Despite Russian pressure on its export routes, Ukraine exported around five million tonnes of grain in July and August, a level similar to last year when the grain deal was in force, according to Andrey Sizov, director of SovEcon, a Black Sea association. Consulting in cereal markets.

The figures mask long-term Russian damage to Ukraine’s agricultural sector, experts said. However, they said a much-feared consequence of Russia’s decision to scrap the grain deal has not materialized.

António Guterres, secretary-general of the United Nations, had warned that the end of the grain deal would exacerbate the hunger crisis facing millions of people in countries such as Afghanistan, Yemen and South Sudan.

But global wheat supplies have remained stable, Sizov said, a result, paradoxically, of the large quantities of Russian wheat being exported across the Black Sea. And global wheat prices, which soared at the start of the invasion, have remained largely stable in recent weeks.

“The global market is also managing well without the grain deal,” Sizov said in an essay for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Andrew Higgins contributed with reports.

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