Ukraine resumes grain shipments amid global food shortages

A cargo ship carrying Ukrainian grain set sail from Odesa for the first time since Russia's invasion more than five months ago. It followed last month's agreement with the United Nations and Turkey to allow shipments through the Black Sea, with the deal aiming to ease a global food shortage. Volodymyr Solohub reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    For the first time since February, Ukraine is again exporting food. A cargo ship left the port city of Odessa this morning after a deal was struck with Russia. Ukraine is one of the world's largest providers of wheat, corn and sunflower oil.

    But a Russian blockade and targeting of Ukraine's agricultural infrastructure has jeopardized global food security.

    Special correspondent Volodymyr Solohub reports.

  • Volodymyr Solohub:

    It is the sound of hope for millions around the world desperately in need of food.

    The cargo ship Razoni left Odessa this morning with 26,000 metric tons of corn. It sailed through a Ukrainian mine field and was given safe passage through the Russian blockade. The landmark moment was hailed by both Ukraine and Russia.

  • Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukrainian President (through translator):

    The port has started working. The export traffic has started. And it can be called the first positive signal that there is a chance to stop the development of the food crisis in the world.

  • Volodymyr Solohub:

    And in Moscow by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

    Dmitry Peskov, Spokesman for Vladimir Putin (through translator): The fact of this first ship is very positive news. It's a good opportunity to test what was agreed during talks in Istanbul.

  • Volodymyr Solohub:

    Those Istanbul talks resulted in a breakthrough 10 days ago, after weeks of negotiations brokered by the U.N. and implemented with Turkey's help.

  • U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres:

  • António Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General:

    What we have witnessed today in Odessa is an important starting point. It must be the first of many commercial ships bringing relief and stability to global food markets.

  • Volodymyr Solohub:

    But there are millions of tons of food trapped because the blockade has lasted so long.

    It's wheat harvesting season in Ukraine. Vitaliy Shtefan owns and farms more than 1,000 acres of land in Kharkiv region in Ukraine's northeast and grows wheat on half of it. In the early days, the war came very close to his farm.

  • Vitaliy Shtefan, Ukrainian Farmer (through translator):

    Usually, we harvest 600 tons of wheat, but, this year, we won't have that much. Because of the war, the Russians were just 10 miles away. We had shortages of fertilizers, so our harvest will be smaller this year.

  • Volodymyr Solohub:

    With the war raging just a few miles down the road, local farmers are doubtful that they will be able to sell their grain anytime soon.

    Before the war, Vitaliy sold most of his wheat to grain traders for export. Now, with seaports blocked, he has no buyers.

  • Vitaliy Shtefan (through translator):

    We're in a hopeless situation. We have nowhere to take the grain to, just nowhere. And no one's buying it. And even if they are buying, it's at a very low cost.

  • Volodymyr Solohub:

    The broken supply chain is not the only challenge.

    With the war raging just around the corner, many of the Ukrainian farmers are harvesting at their own risk. And for this farmer in Kharkiv region, the risk was too high. His harvester head and unexploded ordinance.

    Anatoliy, a farmer in the neighboring Dnipropetrovsk region, is luckier. He built grain silos just last year, and was hoping to rent it out to other farmers. But, right now, he's only using it for his own grain.

  • Anatoliy Hayvoronskiy, Ukrainian Farmer (through translator):

    I'm not sure that those farmers that are selling their grain at discounted prices this year will be able to do farming next year, not because they don't want to show, but because they won't have money to farm.

  • Volodymyr Solohub:

    Anatoliy has been farming land for the last 30 years. But he's never experienced anything like this. And the fact that he might lose this year's harvest is the least of his concerns.

  • Anatoliy Hayvoronskiy (through translator):

    It's painful to think that those criminals won't pay for what they are doing. So it is our mission to do everything to overcome this, to win the war, and for those who started it to be held accountable.

  • Volodymyr Solohub:

    But if more ships don't leave the seaport soon, much of this vital commodity might go to waste, because farmers have no place to store it.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Volodymyr Solohub in Kharkiv region, Ukraine.

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