This document contains key facts concerning the global food crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and naval blockade of the Black Sea.
It includes the following sections:
- A summary of the current situation
- Ukraine’s food export statistics
- The effects of the war on Ukraine’s grain exports
- The impact of Russia’s Black Sea blockade and the alternative transport routes Ukraine is using to sell its grain
- The economic consequences of the war on Ukraine’s food sector
- The international consequences, including the challenges facing some of Ukraine’s main export markets
This document will be updated regularly, to ensure the main facts and figures are accurate, in addition to adding important new information.
Links are provided throughout, so readers can verify the information contained within this document.
Overview of the current situation
- Following the United Nations agreement on 22 July, 12 grain-carrying ships have left Ukrainian Black Sea ports (as of 9 August). [Link]
- The vessels carried more than 370,000 tonnes of food commodities, including corn, sunflower meal and oil. [Link]
- Under the terms of the agreement:
- Turkish, Ukrainian and UN staff monitor the loading of grain onto vessels in three Ukrainian ports – Odessa, Chernomorsk and Yuzhny – before navigating pre-planned routes through the Black Sea
- The vessels cross the Black Sea while being monitored by a Joint Co-ordination Centre in Istanbul
- Ships entering Ukraine are inspected under the supervision of the same joint coordination centre to ensure they are not carrying weapons
- Russia and Ukraine agreed to withhold attacks on any of the commercial vessels or ports engaged in transporting grain, while UN and Turkish monitors are present in Ukrainian ports in order to demarcate areas [Link]
Ukraine’s food facts
- Grain is one of Ukraine’s main industries, with exports totalling $12.2bn in 2021 and accounting for nearly a fifth of the country’s exports. [Link]
- According to the United Nations, Ukraine was the sixth-largest wheat exporter in 2021, exporting 20 million tonnes of wheat, with a 10% global market share. [Link]
- In 2021, Ukraine also exported 24.7 million tonnes of corn, 5.6 million tonnes of barley, 5.1 million tonnes of sunflower oil and 2.6 million tonnes of rapeseed. [Link]
Ukraine is a major global exporter of the following commodities:
Source: Information Note, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 25 March 2022
- Before Russia’s invasion, Ukraine’s food exports were enough to feed 400 million people around the world [Link], with more than 95% of Ukraine’s food exports shipped via the Black Sea. [Link]
- In 2022, Ukraine was predicted to account for 12% of global wheat exports, 16% for corn, 18% for barley and 19% for rapeseed [Link].
Effects of the Russian war
- Due to the Russian invasion and naval blockade, almost 25 million tonnes of grain are currently stuck in Ukraine. [Link]
- According to satellite data from NASA released in July, Russian forces now occupy about 22% of Ukraine’s farmland. [Link]
- Ukraine’s agriculture minister Mykola Solskyi has accused Russia of stealing 500,000 to 600,000 tonnes of wheat and exporting it secretly via the Crimean port of Sevastopol. [Link]
- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said: “There are credible reports… that Russia is pilfering Ukraine’s grain exports to sell for its own profit.” [Link]
- On 31 July, a Russian missile attack on Mykolaiv killed Oleksiy Vadatursky, founder and owner of Nibulon, a major agriculture company. Nibulon specialises in the production and export of wheat, barley and corn and has its own fleet and shipyard. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that Mr Vadatursky had been building a modern grain network of terminals and elevators. [Link]
- In July, Ukraine’s monthly grain, oilseed and oil exports rose 22.7% to 2.66 million tonnes thanks to higher wheat and barley shipments, according to the agriculture ministry. However, grain exports were down almost 52% year-on-year at 2.2 million tonnes so far in the 2022/23 season. [Link]
The blockade and Ukraine’s transportation alternatives
- Before Russia launched its war, Ukraine could export up to six million tonnes of grain per month. [Link]
- Until August, Ukraine was only able to export a maximum of two million tonnes of grain a month. [Link]
- The war has caused Ukrainian farmers’ transportation costs to rise sharply. For example. the price to deliver barley to the Romanian port of Constanta is now US$160 to US$180 per ton, up from US$40 to US$45. [Link]
- Ukraine still controls its four largest ports, Chornomorsk, Odessa, Mykolaiv and Pivdenny, which collectively handled more than 85% of the country’s sea cargoes. However, Russia’s blockade made it impossible for Ukraine to use these ports until the UN agreement was signed in July.
- Because of the war, Ukraine currently does not control four other Black Sea ports vital to exporting grain: Berdyansk, Kherson, Mariupol and Skadovsk.[Link]
- Ukraine has four ports on the Danube River: Kiliya, Izmail, Reni and Ust-Danube. Until recently these ports were unable to handle more than 300,000 tonnes of grain per month. [Link]
- Work is underway to expand the facilities at some of these ports, but capacity issues will remain hard to overcome. In early July, Ukrainian agriculture official Alla Stoyanova told The Guardian newspaper that “over 160 ships are awaiting in the Black Sea to enter the Sulina canal, but they can’t because the capacity of that canal is only 5-6 ships a day.” [Link]
- Ukraine is using its Danube ports, together with rail services, to transport grain to Romanian and Bulgarian ports. However, these efforts involve difficult logistical challenges. For example, one bulk carrier that left Constanta with 70,000 tonnes of grain in April was filled by a combination of 49 barges and trains. [Link]
- It is estimated that one road lorry can carry 25 tonnes of grain, while a train carriage can hold 60 tonnes, In order to load the equivalent of one grain carrier ship, 2,000 trucks would be required. [Link]
- Since the war started, 30% of Constanta’s operations now involve handling Ukrainian grain. The port has a grain storage capacity of 1.5 million tonnes, supported by the fastest cereal handling terminal in the European Union. [Link]
- Ukraine is also sending grain by train to Poland, for onward delivery to ports in Poland, Germany and the Baltic states. However, the Ukrainian rail system operates on a different gauge from other European countries including Poland, so the grain has to be transferred to different trains at the border. [Link]
- Following infrastructure improvements, Poland predicts it can soon handle around 1.5 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain per month, which would be two times the current amount passing through the country. [Link]
- On 21 July, Germany’s national railways company Deutsche Bahn announced plans to start freight train services, carrying Ukrainian grain to German ports for loading on ships. Several trains a week are planned, mostly picking up grain in Romania for transportation to Germany ports including Rostock, Hamburg and Brake. [Link]
The consequences for Ukraine
- Mykola Horbachov from the Ukrainian Grain Association said that farmers are facing the most difficult situation since the country gained independence in 1991. “Most of the farmers are running the risk of becoming bankrupt very soon. But they don’t have any other option but to sell their grain cheaper than its cost,” Horbachov told Associated Press. According to one Ukrainian farmer, before Russia’s invasion he could sell a ton of wheat for US$270, but now can’t find a buyer at US$135 per ton. [Link]
- In an interview with the Financial Times, Ukraine’s agriculture minister Mykola Solskyi predicted that the country’s farmers will reduce winter sowing of wheat and barley from 30% to 60% later this year if the main exports routes remain blocked. He said that many farmers will not have enough money to pay for seed, fertiliser, herbicide and fuel for winter wheat and would grow rapeseed instead, which commands a higher price but has a lower yield. [Link]
- On 20 July, the US government announced a US$100 million Ukraine Agriculture Resilience Initiative to provide Ukrainian farmers with vital supplies in order to maintain future harvests. The initiative will also include financing for farmers who are facing rising prices as their incomes have been hit. The United States Agency for International Development will work to raise an additional US$150 million from donors and the private sector. [Link]
- Farmers attempting to harvest their crops also risk becoming casualties of the invasion due to the dangers of Russian mines and unexploded ordinance. Several tractors have hit land mines while harvesting, with at least one farmer killed and more injured. [Link]
- In a tweet posted on 31 July, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the “Ukrainian harvest this year is under the threat to be twice less. Our main goal — to prevent global food crisis caused by Russian invasion. Still grains find a way to be delivered alternatively.” [Link]
The consequences for other countries
- Before the war started, 276 million people in 81 countries served by the World Food Programme (WFP) were acutely food insecure. This was a record high, with an increase of 126 million people compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic. [Link]
- By early July, and as a direct result of the war in Ukraine, the WFP stated that 345 million people are acutely food insecure, while “50 million people in 45 countries are now just one step from famine.” [Link]
- The UN has said that up to 20 million people in eastern Africa could go hungry in 2022, due to the worst drought in four decades and the war in Ukraine. On 22 June, the WFP approved a US$2.3bn programme to help countries in eastern and southern Africa tackle food insecurity. [Link]
 According to the World Food Programme, “acute food insecurity is when a person’s inability to consume adequate food puts their lives or livelihoods in immediate danger”.
Additional information about grain exports to individual countries
Percentage of wheat imports sourced from Ukraine
Source: 2020 data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, as reported by the BBC, 26 May 2022
- Egypt imports around 20% of its wheat from Ukraine. [Link]
- Іn Egypt, more than 32.5% of citizens live below the poverty line, which makes malnutrition and hunger an urgent problem. The country’s demand for grain is 12-14 million tons annually. [Link]
- Last year, Indonesia imported 3.07 million tonnes of wheat from Ukraine. [Link]
- In Indonesia, 22.9 million people are unable to meet their dietary requirements. [Link]
- In Libya, 83% of people live on less than US$1.25 a day, and 699,000 people are food insecure. [Link]
- Prices of staples, including bread, are expected to increase by 30%. [Link]
- Libya imports 43% of its wheat from Ukraine. [Link]
- Lebanon imports 60% of its wheat from Ukraine. [Link]
- There are fears that the country’s wheat supplies could run out without emergency imports from other countries. [Link]
- 22% of households are short of food and there was a 340% increase in the price of a basic food basket from 2019 – 2021. [Link]
- According to the United Nations, approximately 7.1 million Somalis – nearly half the nation’s population – face acute food insecurity, with almost 250,000 at risk of imminent starvation. In addition, 1.4 million Somali children younger than 5 face acute malnutrition.
- Since Russia started the war, the cost of some basic foodstuffs has soared. For example, the cost of cooking oil has risen from US$5 a litre to US$13 a litre, while the price of a 400 gram can of wheat has doubled since February. [Link]
- Tunisia imports 40% of its wheat from Ukraine, which is its biggest supplier. [Link]
- Yemen imports 21% of its wheat from Ukraine. [Link]
- Up to 19 million people are facing food insecurity. [Link]
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