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 farmers
- 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
- As of 10 September, 2.6 million tonnes of agricultural products have been exported on 113 vessels following the 22 July UN agreement and the first shipment of grain on 1 August. [Link]
- Under the terms of this 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 – export updates and stolen grain
- 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]
- On 29 August, Ukraine’s agriculture minister Mykola Solsky predicted that the country’s agricultural exports could rise to 6 million – 6.5 million tonnes in October, double the volume seen in July. [Link]
- 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]
- Mykola Solsky 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 18 August, Associated Press reported that the SV Konstantin, a Russian cargo ship, had arrived at the Syrian port of Tartus. The Ukrainian Embassy in London said the Konstantin contained stolen Ukrainian wheat loaded at Sevastopol. In May, satellite images showed the Russian-flagged Matros Pozynich at dockside in Latakia, Syria. Ukraine said the ship had 27,000 tons of stolen grain that was initially offered to Egypt, which refused the cargo. [Link]
The blockade and Ukraine’s transportation alternatives
- 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 on 22 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]
- 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]
- On 12 September, the Ukrainian Agrarian Council predicted that farmers are likely to cut the winter grain sowing area by at least 30% because of rising costs for seeds and fuel, combined with low selling prices of their grain. In August, Ukraine’s agriculture ministry said it expects this year’s winter wheat sowing area could shrink to 3.8 million hectares from 4.6 million a year earlier. [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]
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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