POLAND – Poland announced that it is taking measures to help Ukraine increase grain exports into western Europe.
The possibility of Ukraine shipping its grain through international ports was first proposed by Latvian President Egils Levits, during a joint briefing with the presidents of Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, and Estonia.
After weeks of negotiations, officials from Poland and Lithuania appear ready to open their ports to Ukrainian wheat.
“We put an offer on the table, if Ukraine wants, they can use it. They can use our seaports,” Polish President Andrzej Duda said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
So far, Polish customs procedures and lack of personnel at the border crossing have limited Ukraine’s export efforts.
However, Ukraine agriculture minister, Mykola Solskiy, said that Poland plans to “significantly simplify the border cross of our grain goods and increase export volumes, which is the ministry’s priority.”
Ukraine noted that its grain exports for the first 10 days totaled about 300,000 tons, less than half of what it shipped during the same period a year ago, according to Reuters.
The blockade of Ukraine’s ports has taken millions of tons of grain and grain-based products off the market and caused global wheat, corn and vegetable oil prices to soar to record highs in recent weeks.
International organizations warn it could lead to a hunger crisis in several countries that are dependent on the crop.
According to the global NGO Human Rights Watch, many African countries, having become highly reliant on Ukrainian wheat, are especially vulnerable.
Other European countries also have pledged to aid Ukraine in getting more grain shipped through its western border.
The German government is working to build a “grain bridge” to move agriculture products out of Ukraine and bring machinery in by railways, according to Handelsblatt, a German media outlet.
Michael Theurer, Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Transport, confirmed to the media outlet that talks were being held with neighboring railways in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania.
“As a rail transport officer, I am committed to ensuring that 20 million tons of grain can be shipped in order to avert a global hunger catastrophe,” Theurer said.
Still, officials remain wary about one key obstacle that could still derail the entire initiative, infrastructure. In Poland, the railway gauge is narrower than in Ukraine.
While getting Ukrainian wheat out by rail seems like the easiest option, it isn’t as simple to execute. Therefore parties are exploring alternatives, including moving wheat by truck.
Ukraine has already planted 7 million hectares worth of crops for its summer harvest.
With the country’s grain storage already at capacity, it may not be able to afford harvesting these crops without an export deal in place, therefore whatever solution is decided upon, it needs to happen quickly.
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