A total of 33 cargo ships carrying around 719,549 tons of foodstuffs have left Ukraine under a deal brokered by the United Nations and Türkiye to unblock Ukrainian seaports, the Ukrainian Agriculture Ministry said on Tuesday.

The Joint Coordination Centre (JCC) in Türkiye monitoring the implementation of the agreement puts the total amount of grain and foodstuffs exported from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports since the deal was reached at 721,449 tons.

Ukraine’s grain exports slumped after Russia invaded the country and blockaded its Black Sea ports, driving up global food prices and prompting fears of shortages in Africa and the Middle East.

Moscow began its attack on Feb. 24, calling it a “special military operation,” leaving a vast amount of crops either unharvested or destroyed.

Türkiye and the U.N. on July 22 brokered the landmark agreement clearing the way for Ukraine to export some 22 million tons of corn and other grain stuck in its Black Sea ports.

In addition to the vessels that have already left Ukraine, the ministry said a further 18 were now loading or waiting for permission to leave Ukrainian ports.

The Turkish Defense Ministry on Tuesday said another ship set sail from the Ukrainian port of Chernomorsk earlier in the morning.

It added that three ships coming from Ukraine and the other three sailing toward the embattled country were to be inspected.

The Ukrainian Agriculture Ministry said grain exports could reach 4 million tons in August, compared with 3 million tons in July.

Key food exports almost halved

In a separate statement, the ministry said exports of key Ukrainian agricultural commodities had fallen by almost half since the start of the Russian invasion compared to the same period in 2021.

Agricultural exports between Feb. 24 and Aug. 15 this year fell to 10 million tons from around 19.5 million in the same period last year, the ministry data showed.

The 2022 grain harvest in Ukraine is forecast to fall to around 50 million tons from a record 86 million tons in 2021.

From Feb. 24 to Aug. 15 this year, Ukraine has exported 3.8 million tons of corn, 1.4 million tons of sunflower seeds, almost 1 million tons of sunflower oil and around 640,000 tons of wheat, the ministry data showed.

The country, whose food production, according to the government, is capable of feeding up to 400 million people, also exported barley, soybeans and oil, sunflower and soybean meals.

Even with three of its ports reopened under the grain deal, Ukraine’s agricultural exports are significantly lower than before the conflict, when it exported up to 6 million tons of grain a month.

Last week the Agriculture Ministry said Ukraine’s grain exports in the 2022/23 season up to Aug. 19 are down 51.6% from a year earlier at 2.99 million tons.

Grain exports for the 2021/22 season, which ended on June 30, rose 8.5% to 48.5 million tons thanks to a large volume of shipments before Russia invaded.

About İsmail Uğural

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