Ukraine: Berlin explores alternative grain routes
Berlin, Jun 11: Germany's agriculture minister met his counterpart Mykola Solskyi in Kyiv on Friday in a show of solidarity with Ukraine amid the ongoing war.
Cem Özdemir said that, as well as demonstrating support to Kyiv, his ministry was exploring ways for grain and oilseed could be exported from the country by routes other than the Black Sea, which is under a de facto blockade by Russia.
Harvest due within weeks
During a visit to an agricultural college in the town of Nemishayev, the Green Party politician told DW there was only one ultimate solution, which was an end to the war.
"That's why we have to support Ukraine. My ministry is doing this by supplying food and supporting Ukrainian agriculture — but Ukraine of course also need the military equipment to defend itself and to win."
"Ukraine needs to be able to quickly resume its long-held role as a crucial supplier of grain to the global market."
Ukraine's next grain harvest is due within weeks, but with no imminent sign of Russia relenting in the war it has unleashed, exports could be compromised and shortages in import-dependent countries in Africa and the Middle East could worsen.
Ukraine is the world's fifth largest wheat exporter, with a global market share of 10% in recent years.
Expansion of different routes
The German minister said talks had been aimed at finding alternative routes for agricultural exports in the face of blocked ports. Özdemir said he shared Ukraine's skepticism that Russia would be willing to allow corridors across the Black Sea.
Acknowledging the important role played by Ukraine in global food security, Özdemir said there were solutions, "but they are second or third best."
"Alternative routes have become surprisingly well established, but they are of course much more expensive than shipments across the Black Sea. Transport on the Danube, on trucks, or on rail are increasing, and we want to increase them further still with the help of the European Union. But the prices are higher, and the export routes longer."
The agriculture minister's visit came as Germany faces fresh criticism over a lack of clarity about when weapons to help in its fight against Russia will be delivered.
Responding to criticism, Özdemir said: "From what I'm told, Germany is doing what it can, so I assume that it is, and I would very much support that."
The visit also came on the same day as a trip by German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach to the western city of Lviv.
Grain production is one of Ukraine's main industries, with exports totaling $12.2 billion (€11.6 billion) in 2021 and accounting for nearly a fifth of the country's exports.
Before the war, Ukraine exported 98% of its cereals and oilseed via the Black Sea, at a rate of up to six million metric tons per month.
DW's Jan-Philipp Scholz contributed reporting from Kyiv.