Hope Builds for Ukraine Grain Corridor Amid Fears of Food Crisis

Hope Builds for Ukraine Grain Corridor Amid Fears of Food Crisis
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (R) and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov shake hands during their meeting in Antalya, Turkey, on March 10, 2022. (Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service via AP)
Nicholas Dolinger

Turkey has expressed continued interest in a proposal to open a “grain corridor” that would facilitate the continued export of grain from Ukraine to international markets via sea, which could provide Ukraine with additional income for its continuing war effort and ameliorate or prevent food shortages in the Middle East and Africa.

On June 8, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the proposal for a maritime corridor for grain exports was “reasonable,” but would require further talks with Russia to ensure the safety of Ukrainian commercial vessels.

Speaking alongside Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Cavusoglu expressed interest in facilitating ceasefire negotiations between the warring parties of the Russia–Ukraine war and said the talks with Russia in Ankara have been fruitful.

Lavrov said the onus for establishing such a grain corridor is on Ukraine, and he called on the country to remove its mines from its Black Sea ports. He claimed that Russia has already fulfilled the necessary commitments to open the corridor, but Ukrainian officials have expressed skepticism that Russia won’t take advantage of the demining of the Black Sea to attack Ukrainian ports.

Serhiy Ivashchenko, director of the Ukrainian grain traders union, said demining the Black Sea would likely take several months and require naval supervision from Turkey and Romania. Even if such a deal were to be realized, shipping companies would likely face high insurance costs for exporting Ukrainian grains to target markets. With significant logistical hurdles to exporting grain by land, the problem of bringing Ukrainian crops to foreign markets remains complex but urgent for both Ukraine and recipient countries.

Prior to the Russian invasion in February, Ukraine was one of the world’s leading grain-export countries, exporting more than 35 million tons of corn and 16 million tons of wheat annually. Much of this grain supply is exported to the Middle East and North Africa, where Ukrainian and Russian grains are a staple of the local food supplies.

Adding urgency to the issue is the growing shortage of grain storage space within Ukraine, a consequence of surplus harvests and limited export opportunities. If these export problems aren’t solved imminently, they could result in excess food waste in Ukraine.

Turkey has found itself in a bind since the beginning of the war, as the country’s own economic troubles and trade dependence on the Russian Federation have prevented the land of Osman from joining its NATO partners in sanctioning Russia. With Turkish currency inflation reaching heretofore unseen levels, the potential for a grain scarcity to result in major economic and humanitarian calamity is of great concern for policymakers in the Anatolian nation.