A historic agreement with Russia has seen the first ship carrying grain leave a Ukrainian port. The ship reportedly departed the southern port of Odesa early on Monday morning local time, according to Turkish and Ukrainian officials. Since February, Russia has blocked Ukrainian ports, but the two sides reached an agreement to allow shipping to restart.
The accord is expected to ease the world food crisis and bring down grain prices. Turkey announced that the Razoni, a ship flying the flag of Sierra Leone, would land at the port of Tripoli in Lebanon and added that other cargoes were scheduled for the upcoming weeks.
The ship was carrying about 26,000 tonnes of corn, according to the Joint Coordination Centre, which was established in Istanbul as part of the agreement, and it was scheduled to enter Turkish seas for inspection on Tuesday.
António Guterres, the UN Secretary General, thanked Turkey for its efforts in helping to put the agreement into effect and welcomed the ship’s departure. Alexander Kubrakov, Ukraine’s minister of infrastructure, posted on Facebook that “Today Ukraine, together with allies, takes another step to avoid world famine.” “Unlocking ports will give the economy at least $1 billion in foreign exchange revenue and give the agricultural industry a chance to plan for the following year.”
While the sight of the Razoni edging out into the mine-infested Black Sea with her stowed white cranes and long blue hull is an important development, the operation will need to continue for a sustained period of time in order for either Ukraine’s damaged economy or tens of millions of people around the world to benefit. However, Mr. Kubrakov emphasised that 16 additional ships were ready to depart from ports in southern Ukraine, with Odesa, Chornomorsk, and Pivdenny anticipated to be the primary export hubs.
The agreement last month, which was mediated by the UN and Turkey, took two months to negotiate and was intended to last 120 days. If both parties concur, it may be renewed. A global food crisis has resulted from the blockade of Ukraine’s grain, which has caused the price of wheat-based goods including bread and pasta, cooking oils, and fertiliser to rise.
Together, Russia and Ukraine produce close to one-third of the world’s wheat. According to UN statistics, Ukraine produced 42% of the world’s sunflower oil and 16% of the corn in 2019.
Dmytro Kuleba, the foreign minister of Ukraine, hailed the delivery as a “relief for the world” and pleaded with Moscow to “honour its share of the bargain.” The departure of the ship was a “very positive” step, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow.
International officials welcomed the supply with caution; UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss referred to it as “an significant first step.” The “full deal” must be fulfilled, according to EU spokesperson Peter Stano, for Ukraine to resume exports to other countries.