Ukraine’s neighbors offer routes for grain exports

As Russia continues to attack Ukraine’s ports and silos, nearby countries are stepping up efforts to deliver more of Ukraine’s grain to the world’s markets.

After Russia walked away from a U.N. deal that moved nearly 33 million metric tons of Ukrainian agricultural exports via the Black Sea, the governments of Romania and Moldova offered other routes for Ukraine to export its grain and foodstuffs.

“We hope that over 60% of the total volume of Ukrainian grain exports will transit Romania,” Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu said August 18.

Aerial view showing tractor-trailer trucks lining up on side of highways (© Ionut Iordachescu/AFP/Getty Images)
Aerial photo of a four-kilometer queue of grain-transporting trucks waiting to enter the grain terminals in Constanta harbor in Romania July 31 (© Ionut Iordachescu/AFP/Getty Images)

Ciolacu said Romania is trying to improve its connecting infrastructure by rail, road, river and sea, as well as at border crossings, to help deliver more Ukrainian grain.

Moldova has similar efforts underway. Moldovan President Maia Sandu said her country is negotiating with Ukraine, Romania and the European Commission “on how to include the interests of Moldovan farmers and to ensure the transit of grain from Ukraine.”

Earlier in August, representatives from Ukraine, Romania, Moldova, the United States and the European Union met in Romania to affirm their commitment to accelerating Ukrainian grain exports.

Russia’s attacks continue

Since Russia terminated its participation in the U.N. grain deal, Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reports that Russia’s attacks on ports destroyed over 270,000 metric tons of grain.

A recent attack targeted 13,000 metric tons of Ukrainian grain headed to feed people in Egypt and Romania.

Black-and-white photo of hands holding bowl with color image of Earth inside it, beside text on grain destroyed by Putin’s attacks on Ukraine (Graphic: State Dept./M. Gregory. Image: © mantinov/
(State Dept./M. Gregory)

World leaders, including Pope Francis, have called on Russia to rejoin the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres described the deal as “a lifeline for global food security and a beacon of hope in a troubled world.”

The deal, which the United Nations and Türkiye brokered in July 2022, delivered grain worldwide. Nearly 19 million metric tons went to developing countries.

The initiative also supplied grain to some of the world’s most food-insecure countries, including Yemen, Ethiopia, Somalia and Afghanistan.

China had been the biggest beneficiary, acquiring almost 8 million metric tons of agricultural exports under the grain deal. Other recipients include Egypt, India, Indonesia, Kenya and Tunisia.

While rail, road and river exports are valuable alternative routes to help keep food prices from spiking, Ukraine’s deep-water ports are the most efficient and cost-effective.

Line of almost totally covered women with babies and young children (© Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)
Under the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Ukrainian grain reached people in need worldwide, including people in Afghanistan. Above, mothers with their babies, who suffer from malnutrition, wait to receive help at a World Food Programme clinic in January. (© Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

The Black Sea Grain Initiative also supplied Ukrainian grain to the U.N.’s World Food Programme, the largest humanitarian organization in the world fighting hunger.

Instead of supporting global food needs, Russia opts to continue attacking the world’s food supply.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “While Ukraine inspires the world with their resilience, Russia starves it.”