This document contains key facts concerning Ukraine’s grain exports following Russia’s invasion in February 2022.
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 routes Ukraine is using to sell its grain
- The economic consequences of the war on Ukraine’s farmers
- The international consequences, including the challenges facing some of Ukraine’s main export markets
Links are provided throughout, so readers can verify the information contained within this document.
Overview of the current situation
- As of 11 October, more than 290 ships with over seven million tonnes of agricultural products have left Ukrainian ports, since a deal brokered by the United Nations came into force at the start of August. [Link]
- Under the terms of the UN agreement, which was finalised on 22 July:
- 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]
- This deal is due to expire at the end of November 2022. The UN is trying to extend it by 12 months, but no agreement has been reached so far. [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 – export updates and stolen grain
- On 9 September, Ukraine’s agriculture ministry said the country’s grain exports are down 48.6% year-on-year in the 2022/23 season so far at 5.291 million tonnes. This year’s exports include 3.17 million tonnes of corn, 1.65 million tonnes of wheat and 447,000 tonnes of barley. The volumes include 993,000 tonnes of grain exported so far in September versus 1.67 million tonnes exported in the same period last year. [Link]
- The government had previously said Ukraine could harvest 50 million tonnes of grain this year, compared with a record 86 million tonnes in 2021, because of the loss of land to Russian forces and lower grain yields. [Link]
- A report by the Yale School of Public Health’s Humanitarian Research Lab stated that Russia has destroyed, damaged or seized control of 14% of Ukraine’s crop storage capacity since invading in February. Researchers examined satellite images of 344 storage facilities — out of almost 1,400 nationwide — and concluded that Ukraine’s grain storage capacity fell to 49.8 million tonnes, down from a pre-war capacity of 58 million tonnes. [Link]
- On 15 September, the US announced sanctions against five people for “supporting or enabling the theft of Ukraine’s grain” on behalf of Russia. The individuals included the mayor of Berdyansk, Oleksandr Fedorovych Saulenko, who has overseen the theft of hundreds of thousands of tons of Ukrainian grain through the city’s port; and Yevhen Vitaliiovych Balytskyi, who was appointed head of the Zaporizhzhia military-civilian administration by the Russian government and oversees the seizure of Ukrainian grain from that region. [Link]
- In October, a joint investigation by Associated Press and PBS revealed a Russian-run smuggling operation that has stolen Ukrainian grain worth at least US$530 million. The reporters used satellite imagery and marine radio transponder data to track 36 ships making more than 50 voyages carrying grain from Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine to ports in Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and other countries. [Link]
Ukraine’s transportation options
- 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 implemented in August.
- 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]
- 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]
- 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]
- On 8 September, Reuters predicted that it would take six months to ship the rest of the grain left over from Ukraine’s 2021/22 harvest, with the help of rail exports. During this time, this year’s current harvest could generate an additional 20 million tonnes of wheat and 30 million tonnes of corn. [Link]
- On 12 September, the French and Romanian governments signed an agreement allowing more grain exports from Ukraine to reach Europe and beyond. Ahead of the agreement, France’s Transport Minister Clément Beaune said the deal will cover exports “by river, sea and land.” [Link]
The consequences for Ukraine’s farmers
- Ukraine’s agriculture sector contributes 11% of the country’s GDP. [Link]
- According to the Ukrainian Agribusiness Club, approximately one third of last year’s wheat area has been lost due to the Russian invasion. [Link]
- Ukraine’s winter grain sowing area for the 2023 harvest is unlikely to exceed two million hectares and the harvest could fall by at least 50%, according to Alex Lissitsa, CEO of IMC, a large Ukrainian agriculture company. [Link]
- 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. [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]
- Pavlo Martyshev from the Kyiv School of Economics, has called for international support for Ukrainian farmers, including loans that could help small farms build temporary silos ahead of the next sowing season. [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]
- On 20 August, Associated Press reported that the United States is planning to buy 150,000 metric tons of Ukrainian grain for distribution by the WFP. [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
Top Ukrainian wheat importers (million tonnes)
As reported by the BBC, 22 August 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]
- In Indonesia, 22.9 million people are unable to meet their dietary requirements. [Link]
- Last year, Indonesia imported 3.07 million tonnes of wheat from Ukraine. [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]
- Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has helped increase the price of staples such as pasta and bread by as much as 50%.[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 more than a million tonnes of wheat a year from Ukraine.
- The price of flour has risen by 42% and bread by 25%. [Link]
- Up to 19 million people are facing food insecurity. [Link]
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