Difficult resumption of Ukrainian grain exports | The password

Razoni filled with Ukrainian corn.Picture Reuters

The original buyer in Lebanon suddenly withdrew the corn ordered, which was allegedly used as chicken feed. Razoni left the Ukrainian port of Odessa on August 1 with 26,000 tons of corn. After an inspection in Istanbul, the ship was bound for Lebanon, but the buyer there rejected the cargo at the last minute, saying it was delivered more than five months late. There may have been other complications, and the actual final destination of Razoni’s corn was not Lebanon, but Syria, Lebanon’s neighbor and great friend of Russia. Exporting food to Syria is legal but is hampered by Western economic sanctions against the Syrian government because of the war there.

The London-based news outlet The eye of the Middle East confirms that another buyer has now been found for the much talked about cargo. A statement from the United Nations Joint Coordination Center (JCC), which together with the Turkish government guarantees the free passage of cargo ships across the Black Sea, states that it is common commercial practice for cargoes to be resold en route. The JCC has no influence on that, it adds. That the trouble came over this first shipment from Ukraine was something they would have liked to have seen differently.


Millions of tons of grain have been stranded in Ukraine’s ports and silos since the start of the war. Some of it was looted by Russia, Ukraine said. While grain remained in silos in Ukraine, bread prices exploded in countries such as Egypt and Lebanon. International organizations warned that millions of people in the Horn of Africa could face another famine if the grain does not materialize. Ukraine and Russia are the main grain exporters to the Middle East and North Africa due to the relatively short supply routes. Because of the war, the importing countries in these regions had to rely on other, much more expensive, grain supplies from further afield. 27 cargo ships are now ready to sail with Ukrainian grain or have already departed. For Ukraine, this export means billions in revenue.

In the meantime, questions have arisen about the priority of the first transports. These appear to contain mainly maize, while ports in Africa or the Middle East are said to be waiting mainly for Ukrainian wheat. In addition to corn, the first ships were also to transport a lot of ground sunflower seeds, sunflower oil and soybeans, partly to England and Italy. In Lebanon, which is currently experiencing a severe economic and food crisis, like elsewhere in the Middle East and Africa, people are desperate for wheat, much less for corn or sunflower seeds, local media reported. Whether it played a role in the cancellation of the order with Razoni is not known.

Turkish inspectors aboard the Razoni.  Picture AFP

Turkish inspectors aboard the Razoni.Picture AFP


According to insiders, the sequence of grain exports is determined by the chronological settlement of contracts from before the war. Some of the ships now sailing had been loaded with corn for months, but got stuck due to Russian shelling or Ukrainian mines. A total of 370,000 tons of corn and sunflower seeds and oil would now have been loaded. So far, maize is therefore mainly sent from Ukraine, but the UN believes that wheat can also leave the country from next week. The UN also expects that even more ships will dock in Ukraine in the coming period, and that the goal of exporting two to five million tons of grain per month from Ukraine can be achieved.

On Monday, a small grain ship successfully arrived in Turkey from Ukraine. It is the first ship to reach its intended final destination. Two other ships that had departed at the same time would arrive at their destination within a week.

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