The exit routes for wheat from occupied Ukraine

The exit routes for wheat from occupied Ukraine

The food security of some 400 million people around the world is endangered by the Russian naval blockade of the coasts of Ukraine, which prevents the transit of ships loaded with supplies. Ukraine is in fact one of the world's largest producers of sunflower oil, wheat, rapeseed and corn, but according to the European Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean almost 40 million tons of wheat are currently blocked in the country due to military aggression by Moscow.

The invasion of Ukraine is much more than a regional problem. The great nation straddling the Black Sea is also known as the "granary of Europe", due to its vast fertile lands and massive production of cereals. With globalization, its role as granary has also extended beyond the continent, contributing to the distribution of food raw materials in many African, Middle Eastern and Asian countries.

For this reason, with words by the director of the UN World Food Program David Beasley, “not allowing Ukraine's ports to open immediately means declaring war on global food security. Preventing Ukraine from exporting grain produced to other countries puts 400 million people at risk ". To aggravate the situation in addition to the naval blockade, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the troops of Moscow are looting the storage facilities in the occupied cities, stealing Ukrainian grain to transport it to Russia.

This war is not the first time in history that the Kremlin has used Ukrainian wheat as an "instrument of war", as defined by the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. Indeed, between 1932 and 1933, Stalin organized a table famine, known as the Holodomor, to decimate the still not completely Sovietized Ukrainian population, stealing almost all the grain produced in the country to bring it to Russia.

Today the situation is not the same, because Kyiv has been managing to repel the invasion for three months. However, the Russian naval blockade has throttled 90% of Ukrainian exports, which passed through the Black Sea ports before the attack on Moscow, suspending vital food supplies for millions of people and risking triggering a global famine. For this, the European Union and its partners are taking the necessary measures to open alternative routes and ensure the transport of grain abroad.

The European plan The European Commission has launched the Eu-Ukraine Solidarity Lanes strategy , to unblock the borders with Ukraine and increase the transport capacity by road and rail, so as to be able to pass Ukrainian wheat. The initiative also includes the use of free ships and storage units, supplied by member states, to store excess products and prevent them from rotting.

It is indeed essential to be able to preserve products in the best possible way, while we work to speed up transport times. In fact, after being harvested, Ukrainian wheat has to cross the country to the European borders and there, due to queues, logistics problems due to the emergency and bureaucratic operations, it can wait between 16 and 30 days before being able to cross the border.

For this reason, as Politico reports, Commissioner Vălean turned to the national authorities, asking member countries to give priority to the export of grain over other trades and to allow special temporary permits for truckers Ukrainians and Moldovans to enter the European borders. The Commission has also acted as an intermediary to help companies procure more wagons, trucks, barges and tank containers, by inviting trade associations to participate.

However, one of the problems with land transport is an obstacle of a technical nature, relating to the dimensions of the train rails. In fact, the Ukrainian rails are wider than the European ones, on the model of the Soviet ones, and this prevents Ukrainian trains from passing on the European railways and vice versa. To remedy the problem, the Commission has created a logistics platform to expand its strategic infrastructure corridors, called Ten-T, also to Ukraine, to adapt railways to European standards. This is a medium-term solution, but one that will allow Ukraine to access financing in the future and expand its land trade routes. Currently, the Eu-Ukraine Solidarity Lanes plan is bringing the first results and some countries are already receiving grain supplies.

Lithuania On May 24, 2022, Lithuania received the first delivery of grain by rail from the Ukraine, thanks to the EU-Ukraine Solidarity Lanes plan, the state-owned railway company Ltg told Reuters. "We expect to receive one train a day from Ukraine, each carrying up to 1,500 tons of grain and other agricultural products, to be exported through the port of Klaipeda," said Ltg spokesperson Mantas Dubauskas.

Poland To get to Lithuania, the fastest route from Ukraine passes through Poland, which, at the same time, is focusing its efforts on improving connections between the border and its ports, such as Gdynia and Gdansk on the Baltic Sea

Romania and Bulgaria In the meantime, thanks also to river connections, Ukraine has managed to pass part of its grain into Romania, with which it borders in the southwest. Once it enters the European territory, it is quickly moved from the maritime city of Constanta to the other states. Trains, trucks and barges are used to transport goods to the strategic port city from small Danube ports such as Reni and Izmail in southwestern Ukraine. Between April and May some ships have already managed to leave Constanta, headed for Portugal. Bulgaria has also expressed its willingness to assist the export of Ukrainian stocks from its port of Varna and is currently improving its infrastructure.

Canada Canada has expressed its willingness to assist in creating and placing safely new routes to take wheat out of Ukraine, bypassing the Russian naval blockade. "We know that people around the world will starve as a result of Russia's actions," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in an interview with Reuters. "There is grain waiting to be shipped from Ukraine. We need to make sure. that Russia does not block the grain supplies the world needs ".

Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly announced that the country will remove trade tariffs on all Ukrainian imports to Canada for next year , stressing the importance of Danube river ports and Turkish cooperation to stabilize exports. Additionally, after meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Trudeau announced that Canada will provide $ 25 million to the United Nations World Food Program as part of its efforts to support food security.

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