Ukraine grain deal: ship inspections have resumed, says minister
Inspections of ships transporting Ukrainian grain have resumed under a UN-brokered agreement, the country’s deputy prime minister Oleksandr Kubrakov has said.
Writing on Facebook on Wednesday, Kubrakov said: “Ship inspections are being resumed, despite the Russian Federation’s attempts to disrupt the agreement.”
As part of the UN deal, inspection teams from Russia, Ukraine, the UN and Turkey ensure ships carry only food and other agricultural products and no weapons. However, Russia has been accused by Ukraine of delaying inspections, leading to a halt in grain shipments.
A spokesperson for the Joint Coordination Centre in Istanbul – which facilitates the grain – also confirmed that inspections were resuming. “Inspections teams are already at work,” Ismini Palla, of the JCC, said.
Kubrakov is in Turkey to discuss the status of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which was agreed by Russia and Ukraine last July to help alleviate a global food crisis. Moscow says it agreed to extend the deal only until 18 May.
Kyiv and the UN say the deal has another 60 days to run after then, and are seeking an agreement to ensure it continues.
Kyiv had accused Russian inspectors of preventing vessels from shipping grain from Ukraine.
The agriculture minister, Mykola Solsky, said on Wednesday that Moscow was increasing difficulties for Ukraine at a time when three eastern European countries have banned imports of Ukrainian grain and food products.
“Obviously, the Russians could not fail to take advantage of these nuances on the western border,” Solsky told reporters.
Ukraine is one of the world’s biggest exporters of wheat and other grains, including to the Middle East and Asia. Russia’s invasion last year, however, disrupted the main Black Sea export route, pushing up prices of grain based foods globally.
While the UN-brokered grain export deal has allowed a partial resumption of exports via the Black Sea ports, exports are still falling short of prewar levels, even as some of Ukraine’s agricultural produce has been shipped over the borders of neighbouring countries.
In May 2022, the EU allowed Kyiv to export its grain stocks through the bloc after the closure of the Black Sea shipping lanes following Russia’s invasion fuelled a global food crisis. Member states agreed to import certain products from Ukraine without quantitative restrictions, and without customs and official inspection.
The scheme has had a knock-on effect as farmers in those countries have complained about the dumping of agricultural produce in their economies at cheap prices, undercutting local farmers.
Hungary’s government on Wednesday widened its temporary ban on the imports of Ukrainian agricultural products to include honey, wine, bread, sugar, and a range of meat and vegetable products.
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Poland and Slovakia have also banned the import of grain and other food items from Ukraine, with Bulgaria expected to make a similar announcement on Wednesday.
“In the absence of the obligation to comply with the strict production rules required by EU law, Ukrainian products have a competitive advantage … which causes serious disturbances in the internal market of the member states,” the Hungarian decree stated.
The temporary ban would last from Wednesday until 30 June, but would not apply to the transit of these products through Hungary, the decree said.
Hungarian authorities would seal shipments of the affected products at the border and monitor them with the help of electronic devices and patrols, it added.
Carriers who break the rules may be fined up to the full value of the shipment.
Poland and Ukraine on Tuesday struck a deal to allow Ukrainian grain to transit through Poland after Warsaw banned imports.
AFP and Reuters contributed to this report