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Minister of Infrastructure Updates Kyiv Post on Ukraine Grain Crisis

The Ukrainian Minister of Infrastructure Oleksandr Kubrakov talks in an exclusive interview with KyivPost about the global grain crisis caused by the invasion of Russia and signing of a new contract t

Jul. 27, 2022

The Ukrainian Minister of Infrastructure Oleksandr Kubrakov talks in an exclusive interview with KyivPost about the global grain crisis caused by the invasion of Russia and signing of a new contract that will facilitate the resumption of supply of Ukrainian grain abroad.

– POPOVA: The latest attack on Odesa seaport by Russia, how much is it a breach of the Agreement?

– KUBRAKOV: We signed the Agreement with Turkey and the UN. We heard their position. They believe that this is a very bad act by Russia to initiate action. But all parties agreed that we will try to make this grain deal work. For my part, I will add that if we see the risks for the crews of our vessels, when the grain shipments begin, then all initiative on our part will definitely cease the work.

– POPOVA: How long will it take to see the first ship leaving Odesa port?

– KUBRAKOV: Several days.

– POPOVA: One, two?

– KUBRAKOV: It will happen in the coming days and nights.

– POPOVA: What are the next logistical steps to take in order to implement the deal?

– KUBRAKOV: We need to do a lot from the Ukrainian railway point of view because at that time all the cargo was going to the western borders. These are our internal tasks. And there are also external tasks. First of all, the market should find suitable vessels that will be willing, will have the appropriate insurance to enter our ports.

– POPOVA: Do we need to clear some parts of the sea? Will it be conducted by some pilots?

– KUBRAKOV: Of course, we need to determine a part of the exits from our sea ports, the so-called “green corridors.” And only after that we can start working.

– POPOVA: How many ships will arrive to Odessa? From where and in what order?

– KUBRAKOV: We are not ready to answer that right now because now these so-called “corridors” are being formed. The market is looking for freights. It depends. That is, the companies could be American, European or some other, and the ships to enter Ukrainian ports will be the closest ones available in this region – Ukrainian, Turkish, Georgian. Those that are available will be chartered.

– POPOVA: Odesa port and other ports have been closed since February this year. Will it be difficult to resume the work?

– KUBRAKOV: We kept all the people, we didn’t fire anyone. They had downtime, but no one was fired. So I think it won’t be that difficult because the entire key team is in place.

– POPOVA: After the negotiations in Turkey, with Turkey and the UN, what is your vision of Moscow? Do you see any room for further negotiations?

– KUBRAKOV: It is difficult to answer that because we had rather a humanitarian and economic history and the reasons you mention are beyond these things. So I’m not ready to answer that question. Even this agreement, you see it yourself, the UN initiative which was signed, from all the sides, even if not violated, but it clearly shows that any agreements, any initiatives can stop any time. That’s what it shows. You can say whatever you want, consider yourself a winner. Each side considered the UN, raised its authority. Erdogan has shown that he has a great influence in the region. But the next day they showed that they still had the last word.

– POPOVA: The ships of which countries will be the first to enter, in order to export the grain? I understand that the ships can be chartered, but who are the buyers?

– KUBRAKOV: Cargo owners. First of all, I think that those will be Ukrainian companies because they are big Ukrainian traders, after all. Because they are already in a state of war, I will say it so cautiously. They are already here. They are present on the ground. The situation has not changed for them since February. Therefore, an additional risk is not a problem for them. Therefore, I am sure that these will be Ukrainian companies.

– POPOVA: How many million tons of grain can be exported per month from Odesa,  Chornomorsk and Pivdenny ports?

– KUBRAKOV: In the first months, we want to reach 3 and 5 million tons in total.

– POPOVA: Per three ports?

– KUBRAKOV:  Yes, this is not a problem for these three big ports.

– POPOVA: If the Russian Federation continues shelling the port infrastructure, what will happen to the supplies?

– KUBRAKOV: We’re moving on to Plan B, which has been around all this time. That is, we will use…

– POPOVA: Danube ports?

– KUBRAKOV: Danube ports. We will use the railway, load as much as possible and move towards Poland, Slovakia, Hungary. That is, we will use everything that is available and trucks. We did a lot for that.

– POPOVA: But the Danube ports do not export more than 1 million tons per month, do they?

– KUBRAKOV: It is growing. That is, it will be 1 million three hundred this month. These things are hard to compare. But what is our way out? We will not risk our people

– POPOVA: Do you know which countries suffer the most from stopping of Ukrainian grain supplies?

– KUBRAKOV: In their most, these are the countries in the African continent, the Middle East. These countries are our traditional markets.

– POPOVA: How much money will Ukraine get for exporting 22 million tons of grain?

– KUBRAKOV: There are some world prices, which change. There is a part that will stay in Ukraine. We rely on the calculations by the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Agriculture. They say about a billion dollars of our revenues in a month when we start. Of course we want more.

– POPOVA: The non-exported grain from the previous harvest is 22 million tons. Is it the grain of private farmers or the state-owned?

– KUBRAKOV: As Mykola Solsky said yesterday, 99% is private grain of private farmers.

– POPOVA: And what about this year’s harvest? Has it already been collected?

– KUBRAKOV: Preliminary figures – 6.5 million tons were already collected. And in general, a fairly good harvest is expected, what I heard from the Ministry of Agrarian Policy. I have heard figures of 50-60 million.

– POPOVA: I also heard such figures said by the Association of Farmers. In general, what percentage of transportation of agricultural products is currently exported by rail transport, road transport, the ports of the Danube and the Black Sea?

– KUBRAKOV: There are no Black Sea ports now.

– POPOVA: And when will they be available, approximately? How to distribute among them?

– KUBRAKOV: The situation, as of now, is that about half is delivered by Danube river. The next 30% goes by railway and 20% by trucks. If there is a Black Sea option, then the three ports will work. And they will take 70-80%, as it was before the war.