A ship carrying grain departed the Ukrainian port of Odesa for the first time since the start of the Russian invasion under an internationally-brokered deal to unblock Ukraine’s agricultural exports and ease a growing global food crisis.
The Russian blockade of Ukraine’s ports since the start of the war has stoked a worldwide grain shortage.
The cargo vessel, carrying 26,527 tonnes of corn, set sail for Lebanon following weeks of negotiations between Ukraine and Russia. Turkey and the United Nations led negotiations and brokered a grain and fertiliser export agreement - a rare diplomatic breakthrough.
The sailing offers a glimmer of hope in a worsening global food crisis but there are still hurdles to overcome before millions of tonnes of Ukrainian grain can depart from its Black Sea ports. Clearing of sea mines and the creation of a framework for vessels to safely enter the conflict zone and pick up cargoes must be done in order to sustain hopes of exporting the 20 million tonnes of grain in silos and 40 million tonnes from the harvest now under way.
As Ukraine is known as Europe’s ‘breadbasket’, in an evening video address Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy described the shipment as “the first positive signal that there is a chance to stop the development of a world food crisis.”
Moscow has denied responsibility for the food crisis.