UPDATE 2-Ukraine grain exports capped at 2 mln tonnes/month if ports remain blocked

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LONDON, June 7 (Reuters) - Ukraine will only be able to export a maximum 2 million tonnes of grains a month if Russia refuses to lift its blockade of the country’s Black Sea ports, Taras Vysotskyi, Ukraine’s first deputy minister of Agrarian Policy and Food, said on Tuesday.

Ukraine is trying to export its vast stores of grain by road, river and rail to help to avert a global food crisis, but these routes face severe capacity constraints.

Before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, the country was able to export up to 6 million tonnes of grains a month. Since shipments from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports stopped, more than 20 million tonnes of grain are stuck in the country’s silos.

“I think we reached the limit. The biggest amount we can export is about 2 million tonnes a month,” Vysotskyi, speaking via video link, told participants at an International Grains Council (IGC) conference in London.

He said even if Russia’s port blockade is lifted Ukraine would need about six months to demine the waters around its Black Sea ports, meaning the world will remain short of grains for some time.

Ukraine is the world’s fourth largest grains exporter.

Global wheat prices hit record highs in March and the surge in food prices has triggered protests across developing countries, as well as contributing to an acceleration in headline inflation rates throughout the world.

The United Nations is trying to broker a deal to get Ukraine’s grain shipped from its ports. Russia has said it wants Western sanctions lifted as part of the deal and has accused Ukraine of mining its own waters.

Turkey is, meanwhile, coordinating with Russia and Ukraine to agree a plan to restart grain exports from Ukrainian ports.

However, prospects of a breakthrough appear uncertain as fighting continues in Ukraine, and Moscow and Kyiv blame each other for disrupting global food supplies.

Ukraine’s grain, oilseed and vegetable oil exports rose 80% in May month on month to 1.743 million tonnes but the volumes are still significantly below the exports in May, 2021, the agriculture ministry said on Tuesday. (Reporting by Maytaal Angel, Editing by Louise Heavens, Jane Merriman and Ed Osmond)