KYIV, May 9 (Reuters) – Ukraine has alternative ways of transporting grain if a deal on safe Black Sea exports is not extended on May 18, and would not see that outcome as an “apocalyptic scenario”, its agriculture minister said.
Ukrainian Black Sea ports were blockaded after Russia’s invasion last year, but access to three of them was cleared last July under a deal between Moscow and Kyiv that was brokered by the United Nations and Turkey.
Moscow has threatened to quit the agreement on May 18 unless a list of demands is met to remove obstacles to Russia’s own grain and fertiliser exports.
“We do not envisage any apocalyptic scenario due to a million circumstances. Ukrainian farmers and Ukrainian traders have shown that they can do a lot, and a lot of (export) routes can be laid,” Agriculture Minister Mykola Solsky was quoted by his ministry as saying late on Monday.
“There are several scenarios that will be involved in the worst-case scenarios,” he said, giving no more details.
The United Nations said on Monday that so far nearly 30 million metric tonnes of grain and foodstuffs had been exported from Ukraine under the Black Sea deal, including nearly 600,000 metric tonnes of grain in World Food Programme vessels for aid operations in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Yemen.
Russia’s state-owned RIA news agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin as saying a high-level four-way meeting on the Black Sea grain deal would take place in Istanbul on May 10-11.
Ukraine also exports grain via Danube River ports and has said previously that what is known as the Danube Cluster offers a viable alternative export route.