Ukrainian farmers are struggling to export their corn, wheat and sunflower oil on railcars, trucks and river transportation along the western border, but not much is making it out through Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary, according to a new report released Wednesday by Ukraine's Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food.
Small amounts of corn and sunflower oil but virtually no wheat exports are crossing the borders as the Russian military continues to block usage of ocean-going ports that are the traditional gateways to the world for Ukrainian producers.
The Ukraine Ag Ministry is now predicting the country will be able to export just 17 million metric tons of corn for the 2021-22 marketing year. That’s 6 million tons less than USDA’s latest April forecast of 23 million tons. USDA lowered its forecast for Ukrainian corn exports from 27 million to 23 million tons in the April World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report.
The new forecast from the Ukrainian Ministry is even more stark when compared to its initial corn export forecast made before the invasion in late February. Ukraine was originally predicting exports for 2021-22 to reach 33.5 million tons – a bit more optimistic than USDA’s forecast of 29 million tons.
Ukraine says it managed to ship a couple hundred thousand tons of corn out of the country in March and expects exports to be slightly more than 500,000 tons in April, but those predictions are far below the normal pace, when Panamax ships were able to freely dock and load grain at the Port of Odessa.
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The Ukraine Ag Ministry says it was originally expecting to export 9.6 million tons of wheat in the first half of this year, but that’s now been reduced to 2.3 million, virtually all of which was shipped before the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24.
Exports dropped to close to zero in March and the ministry is predicting they’ll stay at near zero for at least the next three months.
The ministry’s pre-war prediction for Ukrainian wheat exports in 2021-22 (July-June) was 25.3 million tons, but that’s been lowered to 18.5 million tons, a bit under the USDA’s latest prediction of 19 million tons.
“The wheat trade estimates in this report support the conclusion that removing Ukraine’s exportable wheat supplies from the global market would definitely factor into unusually high wheat prices,” the U.S. Wheat Associates told Agri-Pulse in a statement after reviewing the new analysis out of the ministry.
Joe Glauber, senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, says the new report is not surprising.
“The report confirms the fact that very little grain has moved out of Ukraine since war started,” Glauber told Agri-Pulse. “Having to move grain and sunflower oil out through Romania and Poland comes at a very high cost of transport due to a lack of infrastructure. The country is plumbed to take grain out through the Black Sea, not by rail through Romania or Poland. Not only is it more costly, the infrastructure just can’t absorb that much exports.”
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