By Pavel Polityuk
KYIV (Reuters) – Ukraine has started exporting grain via Croatian seaports, aiming to broaden its export routes while its Black Sea ports are blocked, a senior Ukrainian official said on Thursday.
Ukraine’s main grain export route is usually via its deep Black Sea ports, but Kyiv has been looking for alternative routes since Russia invasion last year and Moscow’s decision to quit the Black Sea grain export deal in mid-July.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said during a visit to Zagreb in late July that Ukraine and Croatia had agreed on the possibility of using Croatian ports on the Danube and the Adriatic Sea for the export of Ukrainian grain.
“Ukrainian grain has already been exported through Croatian ports. We are grateful for this possibility. Although it is a niche trade route, it is already popular,” First Deputy Prime Minister Yulia Svyrydenko said in a written statement.
“We are ready to develop it by expanding the capabilities of the transport corridor,” she said. “We believe that this logistics route will play an important role in bilateral trade between our countries even after the war.”
Svyrydenko did not say how much Ukrainian grain had already been shipped via Croatian ports.
Since Russia quit the U.N.-brokered deal that had guaranteed safe exports of Ukrainian grain via the Black Sea, Kyiv has increasingly used its Danube River ports to export grain. Russia has, however, been attacking Ukrainian port infrastructure on the Danube.
Some exports are also sent by rail, but Ukrainian brokers have said rail deliveries to European ports are much more expensive than direct exports via Ukrainian ports.
The Ukrainian traders union UGA said this week the 2023 combined grain and oilseed harvest could reach 80.5 million metric tons, and this means that around 49 million tons could be exported in 2023/24 July-June season.
The agriculture ministry said this month that exports totalled 4.5 million tons as of Sept. 1.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Editing by Timothy Heritage)
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