New York Times writer Matina Stevis-Gridneff reported today that “Russian and Ukrainian negotiators are to meet on Wednesday in Istanbul, in the increasingly desperate effort to release huge quantities of grain from Ukrainian ports and ship it to a world facing growing hunger.
“Officials have tried for months to break the deadlock without triggering an escalation of war or, worse, a direct confrontation between Russia and NATO.
Wednesday’s meeting raises hopes of a breakthrough, but in interviews more than half a dozen officials directly involved or briefed on the plans cited obstacles ranging from the mundane to “mission impossible”.
The Times article noted that “the proposed alternatives, moving grain overland or across the Danube, have been too slow, cumbersome and small-scale to meet the challenge of more than 22 million tons of cereals blocked in Odessa and other Black Sea ports that are blocked by Russian warships.
“The urgency is real. Do not move the grain already in the ports and in the silos in the coming weeks will begin to hamper the summer harvestbecause farmers will have no place to store their fresh harvest.
Stevis-Gridneff explained that “So far, one of the main sticking points has been the issue of ship and cargo inspection: the Russian side demanded that it carry out inspections on its own to ensure that the ships transport only grain, and that on their return they are empty and do not bring any weapons back to Ukraine. A diplomat from a country that is a member of the UN Security Council said that a compromise was being developed with The Turkish authorities carrying out the checks.
“The diplomat, who spoke to reporters in the background, said the proposed deal includes a Russian guarantee do not shoot at ships. But that promise would only apply to the transport of grain and would likely be time-limited, the diplomat said, adding that an agreement could be reached by the end of the week.”
Reuters writer Max Hunder reported yesterday that, “Ahead of planned four-party talks in Turkey to unblock grain exports from Ukraine, Ukraine’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday. the grain issue must be resolved under the auspices of the United Nations. “Ukraine is advocating for the issue of unblocking Ukrainian grain to be resolved under the auspices of the UN,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko told Reuters.
Also yesterday, Reuters editor Michelle Nichols reported that “United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday that ‘there is still a long way to go‘ in talks to try to resume Ukrainian grain exports to the Black Sea.
And Reuters writer John Irish reported yesterday that “French Minister of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday that she stay cautious on the prospects for four-party talks in Turkey to unblock grain exports from Ukraine, given that Russia had repeatedly added obstacles to reaching such an agreement.
Meanwhile, Reuters writer Elaine Monaghan reported today that, “Ukraine on Tuesday raised hopes of increased grain exports despite Russia’s blockade of Black Sea portsnoting that the ships had begun to pass through a major mouth of the Danube.
“‘For the past four days, 16 ships passed through the mouth of Bystre,” Deputy Infrastructure Minister Yuriy Vaskov said in a ministry statement. “We plan to maintain this pace.”
“The ministry said that 16 ships were now waiting to be loaded with Ukrainian grain for export to foreign markets, while more than 90 other ships waited their turn in the Romanian Sulina Channel.
Elsewhere, Isabelle Khurshudyan and Serhiy Morgunov reported in today’s Washington Post that, “Farmers across Ukraine increasingly feel financial pressure of the Russian blockade of the Black Sea, and the economic collapse of the sector affects food security in the world. Ukraine accounted for 10% of global wheat exports in 2021, according to the United Nations.
“The high cost of exporting grain through alternative routes — by truck or train to a western neighbor or on a barge through small ports on the Danube — means farmers are losing moneythey said.
“Many farmers are refuse at all to export the current harvest — unless a diplomatic solution is found to unblock the Black Sea ports. Some said they were going shop their grain in silos for now. But with no money coming in, they might not be able to harvest this fall – threatening to drastically reduce production from one of the largest grain producers in the world for the coming years.”
The Post article added that “Ukraine has been working to improve other export routes, but they each come with their own headaches. Farmers and government officials said most grain now transits through the Danube, from where it flows to Romania’s Black Sea ports of Sulina and Constanta. But Romanians are struggling to manage the volume of grain Ukraine needs to export, creating costly expectations, officials said.
In production-related news, Bloomberg writer Megan Durisin reported yesterday that, “Heat, drought and storms have reduced the wheat harvest in Francethe largest exporter in the European Union, which further weighs on world supplies.
And Elisabetta Povoledo reported in today’s New York Times that, “Every morning at dawn, Roberto Guerrini walks the perimeters of the rice fields in northern Italy where his family grew up rice for four generations to ensure that there are no holes – often caused by burrowing animals – in any of the earth fills.
“Not a drop of water should be wasted. Drought conditions are so harsh that the government declared last week a emergency state for much of the north Italyand there are growing fears in one of the country’s most fertile regions that things will never be the same again.