Putin ready to facilitate export of grains from Ukraine: Kremlin

In a call with Erdogan, Russian president says Moscow ready to export fertilisers and food if sanctions are lifted.

President Vladimir Putin has said that Russia is ready to facilitate the unhindered export of grain from Ukrainian ports in coordination with Turkey, according to a Kremlin readout of talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Russia and Ukraine together account for 29 percent of global wheat exports, mainly via the Black Sea, and for 80 percent of global exports of sunflower oil. Ukraine is also a major corn exporter.

In a call with Erdogan on Monday, Putin said that global food shortages were the result of “short-sighted” Western policies, adding that Russia was ready to export significant volumes of fertilisers and food in case sanctions against Moscow are lifted, according to the Kremlin readout of the talks.

“During the discussion of the situation in Ukraine, emphasis was placed on ensuring safe navigation in the Black and Azov seas and eliminating the mine threat in their waters,” the Kremlin said.

“Vladimir Putin noted the readiness of the Russian side to facilitate the unhindered sea transit of goods in coordination with Turkish partners. This also applies to the export of grain from Ukrainian ports.”

It was not immediately clear which Ukrainian ports Putin was speaking of. Ukraine’s main grain export ports include Chornomorsk, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Kherson and Yuzhny.

Erdogan told Putin that peace needed to be established as soon as possible and that Turkey was ready to take on a role in an “observation mechanism” between Moscow, Kyiv and the United Nations, if an agreement is reached.

Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine has roiled the grain market, with Chicago wheat futures hitting a record high in March amid supply concerns.

Moscow is expecting a record crop this year, with exports to be shipped out of Russia’s open Black Sea ports, while Ukraine’s remain blockaded by the Russian navy.

Dozens of container ships are blocked in Ukrainian ports, choking off exports of wheat, sunflower oil and other foodstuffs, as well as fertiliser for crops.

Black Sea navigation has also been hampered by mines placed by both Russian and Ukrainian forces.

Export race

Ukraine is trying to export its vast stores of grain by road, river and rail to help avert a global food crisis but has no chance of hitting its targets unless Russia’s blockade of its Black Sea ports is lifted, an official at Ukraine’s agriculture ministry told Reuters last week.

Before Russia sent troops into Ukraine, the country had the capacity to export up to six million tonnes of wheat, barley and maize a month but exports collapsed to just 300,000 tonnes in March and 1.1 million in April.

Russia and Ukraine together account for 29 percent of global wheat exports, mainly via the Black Sea, and for 80 percent of global exports of sunflower oil.

Ukraine is also a major exporter of corn, barley and rapeseed oil, while Russia and Belarus – which has backed Moscow in the war and is also under sanctions – account for more than 40 percent of global exports of the crop nutrient potash.

Russia has captured some of Ukraine’s biggest seaports and its navy controls major transport routes in the Black Sea, where extensive mining has made commercial shipping dangerous.

Sanctions have also made it hard for Russian exporters to access vessels to move commodities to global markets.

Putin has said Russia will increase wheat exports in the new July-June season due to a potential record crop of 87 million tonnes.

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