Four more grain ships leave Ukrainian ports

The largest caravan of ships carrying grain and other corn products since the start of the Russian invasion left Ukrainian ports on Sunday, heading for Europe, Asia and the Middle East through the mined waters of the Black Sea.

According to the United Nations, the four ships leaving what was one of the world’s breadbaskets were carrying more than 160,000 metric tons – about 176,000 US tons – of agricultural products.

Ismini Palla, spokesperson for the United Nations, said the ships were carrying 6,000 metric tons of sunflower oil to Italy, 45,000 metric tons of flour to China, 66,000 metric tons of sunflower oil to Iran and 44,000 metric tons of maize to the Turkish city of Iskenderun.

She said all ships would be anchored north of Istanbul and be inspected by the Joint Coordination Center, an office where senior officials from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations work together to enable the safe transport of grain, food and fertilizers.

According to the Turkish Defense Ministry, one ship left from Odessa and three from the Ukrainian port of Chornomorsk. An empty ship also entered Ukrainian territorial waters on Saturday, the first ship to arrive in Ukraine for loading, Oleksandr Kubrakov, Ukrainian Minister of Infrastructure, said in a tweet.

The operation was under an agreement concluded at the end of July to enable more than 20 million tonnes of Ukrainian produce to leave the beleaguered country for distribution around the world, generating revenue for Ukraine and helping to stem a looming global hunger crisis.

Four other ships have already left this week carrying more than 80,000 tons of products for delivery to Britain, Ireland, Turkey and Lebanon. On Sunday, the Ukrainian embassy in Lebanon, where the first boat, the Razoni, was due to arrive, told Reuters the ship was being delayed.

Mr Kubrakov said the government was moving gradually to enable ports to handle larger volumes of work, aiming for at least 100 ships a month in the near future.

Experts said the problems affecting food markets are far from over, with a food crisis that has already reached such proportions that no single intervention can solve it.

Yet UN Secretary-General António Guterres said delivering Ukrainian grain stocks was a “humanitarian imperative” which he hoped would “bring much-needed stability and relief to global food security.” .

Nimet Kiraç contributed reporting.

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