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“Grain from Ukraine” continues to ensure global food security

Amanda Paul

Date: 27/11/0023
On 25 November Ukraine held its second global “Grain from Ukraine” summit. Marking the 91st anniversary of Holodomor, the man-made famine in Soviet Ukraine that killed millions of Ukrainians from 1932 to 1933, the summit’s message is clear. While Russia’s war against Ukraine exacerbates the global food crisis, Ukraine is a reliable partner and can ensure global food security. With support from international partners, including the EU, grain from Ukraine continues to reach those most in need.

Overcoming the challenges

In July 2023, Russia unilaterally withdrew from the UN-Türkiye backed grain deal. Moscow also carried out (and continues to do so) large-scale attacks on Ukraine’s port infrastructure (particularly the Odesa and Danube River ports), vessels, and grain warehouses. Its goal was to destroy Ukraine’s export ability and enforce a maritime blockade of the Black Sea, even though it would worsen the existing global food crisis.

Despite Russia’s systematic efforts to prevent the export of grain and other agricultural goods, Ukrainian products continue to reach global markets, playing an important role in ensuring global food security. President Zelenskyy’s "Grain from Ukraine" humanitarian initiative, established in November 2022 and financed by partners, led to the delivery of over 170,000 tons of Ukrainian grain to Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Yemen. Expanding the list of recipient countries is a priority. Nigeria is expected to shortly receive a large grain delivery.

While land corridors (Solidarity Lanes) account for 30% of exports, the Ukrainian-initiated Black Sea “humanitarian corridor” has become a crucial export lifeline for Ukraine and developing countries. Today, over 150 ships, including from Türkiye, China, and Liberia, have left Ukrainian ports via this corridor, which hugs the Western Black Sea coast near Romania and Bulgaria. A total of 4.4 million metric tonnes of cargo, including 3.2 million tonnes of grain, has been shipped since August. While this is 30% less than what Ukraine exported pre-war, a new agreement with global insurers to provide affordable cover for vessels, should increase this figure. Ukraine is also planning to build grain hubs in Africa from which agricultural products could be transported across the continent.

Preventing Russia from turning the Black Sea into a Russian lake is also crucial. Ukraine has seized the initiative. It frequently strikes Russian military targets in the Sea as well as in occupied Crimea to liberate its waters. Serious damage was inflicted on the Headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, forcing Moscow to move vessels elsewhere, which further helps Ukrainian navigation of the sea. Thus, only one vessel has been attacked since the corridor was established. Nevertheless, Russia remains a significant threat and is likely to step up its efforts to destroy the corridor. It has recently started laying more sea mines, making navigation more difficult and dangerous.

A guarantor of food security

On 25 November alone, $100 million was raised to buy grain. Yet, in addition to this important step, Ukraine requires unwavering support from its partners. This must include reliable and sustained military assistance including air and coastal defence systems to protect its Black Sea and river ports as well as key port infrastructure and storage. Tackling Russian-laid sea mines is also a priority. Talks between Türkiye, Romania, and Bulgaria to create a joint force to clear Russian mines drifting into their parts of the Black Sea is a positive step. Given the right tools and support, Ukraine can continue to provide vital food supplies to the world and keep the Black Sea open for international trade.

Amanda Paul is a Senior Policy Analyst in the Europe in the World programme.

This Flash Analysis is part of the Ukraine's European Future project

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