Almost 25 million tons of grain is stranded in Ukraine and unable to leave the war-torn country for export, according to a U.N. food agency official.
The huge backlog of grain shipments is unable to be transported out of Ukraine due to “infrastructure challenges” and blocked ports in the Black Sea, the official revealed.
The blocked shipment of grains could be further exacerbating high food prices across the globe.
Food prices rose at their fastest pace on record in March, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
They increased 13 percent over the month to 159.3 points, an all-time high.
Prior to Russian forces invading Ukraine in February, the country was one of the world’s top producers of agricultural commodities.
Ukraine specializes in staple products such as wheat, maize, rapeseed, sunflower seeds, and sunflower oil.
Along with rising prices, U.S. officials have repeatedly warned of food shortages prompted by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and the latest backlog will no doubt add to that growing concern.
“It’s an almost grotesque situation we see at the moment in Ukraine with nearly 25 million tons of grain that could be exported but that cannot leave the country simply because of lack of infrastructure, the blockade of the ports,” Josef Schmidhuber, FAO deputy director, markets and trade division, told a Geneva press briefing on Friday.
Schmidhuber said the blockages of grains could result in storage shortages during the next harvest in July and August, particularly if Black Sea ports remained blocked by Russian forces.
Since Moscow forces invaded, Ukraine has had to export grain by train over its western border or from its small Danube river ports instead of by sea.
However, it has been reported that those wagons containing grains have faced multiple red tape issues and logistical challenges along with labor and rail car shortages.
“Despite the war, the harvest conditions don’t look that dire,” he said.
“That could really mean there’s not enough storage capacity in Ukraine, particularly if there’s no wheat corridor opening up for export from Ukraine.”
The FAO deputy director also noted further concerns regarding reports that some grain storage in Ukraine has been destroyed amid the ongoing conflict.
Schmidhuber did not elaborate on those reports, however, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said on May 5 that an estimated 400,000 tons of grain had been stolen to date.
Schmidhuber’s comment come shortly after data from S&P Global showed that food supply shortages hit a record high in April.
According to the survey, the Global Supply Shortages Index signaled that shortages were just under seven times higher than the normal level last month, unchanged from March’s four-month high.
Freight capacity remained the most impacted, S&P Global said.
Meanwhile, the United Nations in April said that 45 million people worldwide suffer from malnourishment, and a further 8–20 million more are at risk of famine because of the knock-on effects of war.