More than 1 million metric tons of grain have been exported from Ukraine under a deal to end Russia’s blockade of Black Sea ports, U.N. officials said on Saturday, hailing what they called a “remarkable” achievement but acknowledging that there was still a long way to go.
The grain deal, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July, got cargo vessels moving again after the monthslong blockade had aggravated a global food crisis, helped stoke famine in Africa and contributed to soaring prices. Ukrainian officials estimate that the blockade trapped about 20 million metric tons of grain in silos.
On Saturday, the United Nations credited the deal with helping drive down prices and restore confidence as the world grapples with food insecurity. It said in a statement that 100 inspections of cargo vessels bound for three continents had been carried out by the Joint Coordination Center, which was created under the deal and is staffed by officials from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations.
Not all the vessels are necessarily going to countries facing food shortages because many of the ships are carrying grain purchased under commercial contracts, but the United Nations said that the deal had allowed it to start purchasing wheat from Ukraine for its humanitarian operations.
This month, the Brave Commander, the first ship specially chartered by the World Food Program, departed from a port near Odesa with a shipment eventually bound for Ethiopia.
The United Nations warned that “much more needs to be done” to get grain moving.
“The silos in Ukraine are still stocked with millions of tons of produce from previous harvests,” Amir Abdulla, U.N. coordinator for the grain initiative, noted in an emailed statement. “Much more grain needs to shift to make space for the new harvest.”
Before the war, Ukraine supplied about 45 million metric tons of grain a year to the world market, according to the United Nations.