On Thursday, Greece announced it is ready to provide ships to help export grain from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports that have been blocked by Russia.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis added that his country “has a special role to play in this effort as it controls the world’s largest merchant fleet.”
“Greece, once again, is offering to help and support any effort made, under the auspices of the United Nations, in order for the grain currently trapped in Ukraine, primarily in Odessa, to leave Ukraine and eventually end up in the countries that need it today,” Mitsotakis told reporters.
Greece’s offer was also confirmed by the NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. “Greece announced that they are ready to make available ships to get the grain out of Ukraine,” Stoltenberg told reporters on the third and last day of a NATO summit in Madrid.
Greece offers to ship Ukraine’s grain
Ukraine is one of the top global wheat suppliers, but shipments have been halted by Russia’s invasion, causing global food shortages. The United Nations has appealed to both sides, as well as maritime neighbor Turkey, to agree to a corridor.
Ukraine has asked NATO to help unblock its ports in order to prevent a global food crisis.
A Ukrainian MP in Madrid to lobby world leaders at this week’s NATO summit has warned that more efforts are needed to unblock grain supplies to avoid rising food prices and unrest worldwide.
Prior to Russia’s invasion, Ukraine supplied more than ten percent of the world’s wheat.
Oleksiy Goncharenko, an MP in the Odesa region, told reporters that Vladimir Putin was “acting just like a terrorist—he has taken hundreds of millions of people as hostages by starving them” through the Russian blockade of Ukrainian grain exports.
Goncharenko said Ukraine needed more weaponry to help remove the blockade, noting that direct NATO intervention seemed unlikely due to the “risk of direct clashes.”
Export of Ukraine’s grain drops
The full scale of the impact that Russia’s war on Ukraine and blockade of its seaports has had on food exports became all too apparent earlier this week when data from the European Union revealed that EU imports of Ukrainian sunflower oil, corn, and rapeseed dropped by 10 per cent, 37 percent, and 29 per cent respectively in March compared to the same period a year ago.
EU wheat imports from Ukraine meanwhile dropped by 77 percent compared to March 2021.
Beyond the EU, there was also a significant drop in Ukrainian exports of wheat to its main partners globally. Export to Egypt dropped by 26 percent (year-on-year) while to Yemen, it dropped by 55 percent. Furthermore, no trade at all was recorded for wheat to either Libya, Nigeria, or Lebanon. Prior to the war, Lebanon relied on Ukraine for 70 percent of its wheat.
Similarly, Ukrainian corn and sunflower oil exports fell drastically in March compared to the same month of 2021. The biggest decline in exported volumes were recorded for China, Egypt, and Iran. For sunflower oil, India, China, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates was hit the most by the reduction of Ukraine exports in March.