Ukraine seeks higher tonnage ships to boost exports under grain deal
KYIV, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Ukraine's agriculture ministry has proposed increasing the minimal tonnage of ships which carry grain and vegetable oil from the country via a grain corridor, aiming to boost exports despite opposition from Russia, it said on Friday.
After an almost six-month blockade caused by the Russian invasion, three Ukrainian Black Sea ports were unblocked at the end of July under a deal between Moscow and Kyiv brokered by the United Nations and Turkey.
But Ukraine has repeatedly accused Russia of delaying inspections of ships carrying Ukrainian agricultural goods, leading to reduced shipments and losses for traders.
Russia has denied the accusations.
Ukraine's agricultural ministry said in a statement that due to the slowdown in inspections in the Bosphorus a queue of 108 vessels formed on Feb. 9.
It said that to "reduce downtime and increase exports" the minimum tonnage of vessels could be increased to 25,000 tonnes from 20,000 tonnes for grains and to 10,000 tonnes from 6,000 tonnes for vegetable oils.
"Given the average number of inspections - 2.5 vessels per day - we expect that the new rules will have an effect on increasing shipments in a month and a half," the ministry said.
It added that it would propose introducing the new rules for vessels that were not yet waiting in line.
Ukraine has exported almost 17 million tonnes of grain and oilseeds from when the corridor opened to the end of January, Ukrainian grain traders union UGA said.
It noted that in January 2023, exports of agricultural products "decreased significantly due to deliberate delays in ship inspections by Russia".
Ukraine's grain exports in the 2022/23 season, which runs through to June, were down 29.2% to 28.2 million tonnes as of Feb. 8, due to a smaller harvest and logistical difficulties caused by the war, the ministry's data showed.
A major global grain grower and exporter, Ukraine's output is likely to drop to about 51 million tonnes in clean weight in 2022 from a record 86 million tonnes in 2021. Officials have blamed the fall on hostilities in the country's eastern, northern and southern regions.
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