Amidst Growing Wheat Shortage, Grain May Spoil Aboard Trapped Bulkers

File image
File image

Published Apr 18, 2022 3:28 AM by The Maritime Executive

Up to 1.25 million tonnes of grain and oilseed could rot in the holds of the bulkers stuck in Ukraine's seaports due to the ongoing Russian blockade, Ukrainian farms minister Mykola Solskyi warned on Friday. 

The Russian Navy has blockaded Ukraine's Black Sea and Sea of Azov ports since the beginning of the invasion in February, and more than 80 ships are trapped. In addition to the commercial impact on shipowners, and the humanitarian situation for an estimated 1,000 seafarers trapped with these ships, the blockade has food-security implications for a large swathe of the developing world. Some nations in the Middle East and North Africa are particularly dependent on Ukrainian and Russian wheat, and Ukraine's seaborne exports have come to a full halt. Over the weekend, Ukrainian Railways also halted grain exports to neighboring countries via rail, the consultancy APK-Inform reported Sunday. 

The disappearance of Ukrainian grain from the market has sent global wheat prices skyrocketing. The price has been rising steadily since early 2021, but jumped immediately by 25 percent or more when Russia launched its invasion. This has had a significant impact in the developing world: the World Food Programme reports that it has had to cut rations for millions of people in Yemen and other distressed countries because wheat is now much more expensive. 

As of Friday, some 57 vessels laden with 1.25 million tonnes of Ukrainian grains and oilseed are stuck near Ukraine's seaports, Solskyi told Pravda Ukraine. It has been two months since the invasion started; beyond three months, he said, the likelihood of spoiled cargo begins to rise. 

"As for the retention period, I think that even the captains themselves in most cases do not know if there are any problems with this. They certainly did not plan to keep this grain on the ships for a long time," he said.