Ukraine’s unilateral coast-hugging Black Sea export corridor has been such a success that there has been a significant increase in the number of rail wagons heading to the ports in the Odesa region (which includes Chornomorsk and Yuzhne as well as Odesa itself), according to Valeriy Tkachov, deputy director of the commercial department at Ukrainian Railways. He said on social media that over the past week the number of grain wagons heading to Odesa ports had increased by more than 50% – to 4,032 from 2,676.
More than 700,000 tonnes of grain have left Ukrainian ports via the new route since August. Before Russia’s full-scale military action started in February 2022 Ukraine had shipped up to 6m tonnes of grain per month from its Black Sea ports.
Last week a Ukrainian minister said that grain shipments through the new corridor might break the 1m tonnes barrier in October. That proved to be optimistic. Ministry data showed on Monday that overall grain exports fell by about 50% in October – a result of “logistics difficulties”.
Ukraine’s government said that it expected a grain and oilseeds harvest of 79m tons in 2023, with a 2023/24 exportable surplus of about 50m tons – which would provide a strong economic boost to Ukraine’s finances. Although Ukraine has been receiving large amounts of financial help from the west in its fight against the Russian invasion, there are fears that the US in particular was becoming less keen on the “blank cheque” approach. Seaborne exports of grain via the Black Sea are therefore seen by Ukraine as an important part of demonstrating to the world that it is not merely a client state of the west in a global struggle between the US and Europe against Putin’s Russia.