A grain ship has left Ukraine for the first time since the Russian invasion of the country in February. 

Ukraine has long been a huge exporter of grain to global markets and as long ago as February economists warned that the conflict could send global food prices soaring.  

However, the invasion meant Russia was able to blockade the country’s ports and Ukraine was unable to export her produce. 

After months of tortuous negotiations led by Turkey and the United Nations, Moscow agreed to allow trade to resume for 120 days. 

“Today Ukraine, together with partners, takes another step to prevent world hunger,” Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Alexander Kubrakov wrote on social media.

“Unlocking ports will provide at least $1 billion in foreign exchange revenue to the economy and an opportunity for the agricultural sector to plan for next year.”

Moscow said that the departure of the Sierra Leone flagged ship, the Razoni, was “very positive”. 

Russia was previously concerned that the ships might be used to smuggle weapons into Ukraine but Turkey has agreed to inspect the vessels to prevent this. 

Brussels’ backing

The EU gave the news a cautious welcome, urging Russia to stick to the “whole deal”. 

The bloc has previously said that Moscow is deliberately trying to starve people in order to ramp up the pressure on Ukraine. 

“We know that Vladimir Putin is targeting food production, food stores, food producing equipment in his attacks in Ukraine,” Commissioner McGuinness told The Anton Savage Show in May. 

“He’s hitting farm yards and silos and all of those things and that, in my view, is a deliberate effort to reduce the supply of vital grain for the global market, hitting the most vulnerable and therefore causing disruption and social unrest.”

Global food prices soared by almost 30% in the space of a year and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has warned that the conflict “threatens to tip tens of millions of people over the edge into food insecurity followed by malnutrition, mass hunger and famine“.

Main image: Aerial view of big grain elevators on the sea. Loading of grain on ship. Port Ukraine. Picture by: Alamy.com