This article appeared in the August 24, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Why Ukraine wheat shipments and a bumper harvest sow hope

Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters
A pilot boat guides the Panama-flagged bulk carrier ship the Navi Star as it arrives at Foynes Port delivering 33,000 metric tons (36,376 tons) of Ukrainian corn to Ireland after departing Odesa following the formation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, Aug. 20, 2022.

As a journalist, I’ve observed that problems often burst into the headlines and quickly sow fear. But solutions tend to emerge quietly. Real hope debuts gradually – like a ship coming over the horizon. 

Perhaps that’s why a steady flow of grain shipments out of Ukraine – 33 shiploads in the past month – has garnered few headlines. 

You’ll recall that late last month, amid fears of a global food shortage, Russia and Ukraine struck a deal to allow grain exports through the blockaded Black Sea. Slowly, shipping has resumed. Of course, it takes time to build trust. War insurance premiums are still high and cut into profits. Every time a Russian missile strikes a Ukrainian port or a military aircraft flies over the demilitarized sea corridor, cargo captains get nervous.

But confidence is building.

The Ukrainian Sea Ports Authority reports some 600,000 tons of grain, mostly wheat and corn, have now reached the global market. The authority expects 100 ships a month will soon be able to make the journey safely. 

One of those 33 ships is the Brave Commander, the first vessel chartered by the U.N.’s World Food Program since the war started. It left the port of Odesa Sunday, Aug. 14, carrying 23,000 metric tons (about 25,000 tons) of Ukrainian wheat. Currently, it’s in a line of ships moving into the Suez Canal, and is expected to arrive in Djibouti on Aug. 31. From there, the grain will be trucked to Ethiopia, where the worst drought in 41 years has left millions facing famine. 

The resumption of Ukrainian (and Russian) grain shipments comes amid an improving global outlook for wheat supplies. Thanks to bigger-than-expected harvests in Canada, the United States, and Russia, the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects world wheat exports to be 5% higher than last year. Prices have fallen 40% since March. “The global situation is becoming a little bit less tight than it was just a few months ago,” Veronica Nigh, a senior economist at the American Farm Bureau Federation, said Tuesday.

Maybe that’s not “big” news. But for a hungry family in Ethiopia, it’s noteworthy and a credible reason for hope.

This article appeared in the August 24, 2022 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 08/24 edition
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