On April 17, the Russian side blocked for the second time the inspections of the “grain corridor” vessels in the territorial waters of Turkey.
Since April 10, the Russian side has unilaterally suspended the registration of vessels at the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) that Ukrainian ports submit to form an inspection plan. Instead, the Russians are forming their own inspection plan, selecting vessels from the queue at their discretion, which is completely contrary to the terms of the Initiative and unacceptable to Ukraine. As a result, for the second time in the 9 months of the Grain Initiative’s operation, no inspection plan has been drawn up and no vessels have been inspected. This jeopardizes the functioning of the Grain Initiative.
“Since November 2022, the Russians have been sabotaging and delaying inspections under various pretexts, which has already led to a reduction in the volume of Ukrainian agricultural exports to world markets by 15-18 million tons. Since April of this year, Russian representatives in the Joint Coordination Center have been trying to interfere with the activities of Ukrainian ports and exporters by imposing their own criteria for determining which vessels will participate in the Initiative. For example, since April 14, Russians have been refusing to register three vessels (2 of which are destined for China) that are already waiting for cargo in Pivdennyi port without any explanation,” said Andriy Dykun, Head of the Ukrainian Agri Council and SaveUA Charity Fund.
According to Andriy Dykun, in this way the Russian side is trying to establish control over the number of ships and the directions of their operations, which is a violation of international norms and provisions of the Grain Initiative.
The situation with the blocking of the grain initiative for Ukraine’s agricultural sector is currently particularly complicated due to the fact that EU countries are massively imposing restrictions on the sale and free movement of Ukrainian food through their territories to major seaports.
“If you look at the structure of exports, Ukraine supplies more than 60% of its wheat by sea. For example, Romania actually re-exports Ukrainian products. Hungary’s share of Ukrainian agricultural exports does not exceed 6%. However, if each European country accounts for 5-10%, the total turnover for Ukraine is significant. At a time when the “grain initiative” is constantly blocked by the Russian side, Ukrainian farmers especially need transit through Europe, and the countries that have banned the import of Ukrainian agricultural products cannot but know this,” said the head of the UAC.
Currently, Poland is the only EU country that has completely banned the import of Ukrainian agricultural goods, including meat and dairy products, even if it is transit to other countries. And it is also one of the most important transportation hubs for Ukraine, as it provides access to the ports of Gdansk, Gdynia, and Swinoujscie, as well as access to Klaipeda, Lithuania.
“We already have a statement from Brussels that such decisions by individual countries are unlawful. We understand that this is a political issue, because in Poland and Slovakia there are elections in the fall and politicians are trying to win over the rural electorate, which is the basis of their supporters. However, Ukrainian farmers are not to blame for the fact that their Polish counterparts were unable to sell grain at the prices they had planned. Currently, there has been a decline in global prices, which has significantly affected both European and Ukrainian grain. However, I would like to remind everyone that the losses of the Ukrainian agricultural sector reached $40 billion during the year of war. And the worst thing than financial losses is the loss of human lives, the loss of people who defend the democratic world and the values of the European Union,” said Andriy Dykun.
Negotiations between the ministers of agriculture of Poland and Ukraine are currently underway in Warsaw on April 18, where the parties are expected to agree on the conditions for unblocking transit so that Ukrainian grain can once again go to key European ports.
Poland resumed transit for Ukraine on April 20. However, there are certain conditions.
Poland clarified the conditions for carriers transporting Ukrainian agricultural products in transit through the territory of the country. In particular, upon arrival at the border, a carrier moving through Poland with agricultural goods in transit must fulfill the following conditions:
• have enough fuel in the tank to cross the territory of Poland without stopping at gas stations (for at least 150 km). All transit carriers cross Poland accompanied, and it is impossible to enter a gas station under escort;
• prepare the vehicle for sealing. Fulfill all necessary conditions for this.
If these two conditions are not met, then the Polish customs authorities will prohibit passage to Poland and return the truck to Ukraine.
It is also emphasized that the conditions for crossing the border may change in the future.