A ship loaded with grain left the Ukrainian port city of Odesa on Monday. It was the first grain shipment to leave Ukraine since the war with Russia cut off exports. It is headed to the Middle Eastern nation of Lebanon.
The ship, called the Razoni, has 26,000 tons of corn.
Ukraine is one of the world’s largest grain producers. But its ports have been closed for over five months because of the war with Russia.
The lack of corn and other grains started a worldwide food crisis. Many nations that do not produce enough depend on important supplies of wheat, barley, corn and sunflower oil from Ukraine.
Food shipments restarted after Ukraine and Russia signed agreements with Turkey and the United Nations on July 22. The goal is that 22 million tons of food staples will start to leave Ukrainian ports. Russia will also be permitted to export grain and fertilizer.
Ukraine’s minister of infrastructure, Oleksander Kubrakov, announced the ship’s movement on the social media service Twitter. He said: “The first ship since Russian aggression has left port.” He said starting shipments is “another step to prevent world hunger.”
In Moscow, Russian spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called the ship’s movement “very positive.” Russia in the past has denied that its invasion of Ukraine is the main reason for a world food problem. Russia has blamed international restrictions on its economy for shortages.
The ship must pass through the Black Sea and stop in Istanbul for an inspection on Tuesday. Teams made up of inspectors from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations will look at the ship before it moves on toward the Mediterranean Sea and Lebanon.
Turkey’s defense minister is Hulusi Akar. Without the grain, Akar said, the food crisis could start a migration wave from Africa to Turkey and Europe.
The Razoni is going to the port city of Beirut, where an explosion in 2020 destroyed many buildings, including grain storage structures. Traditionally, Lebanon brings in wheat and corn from Ukraine.
Ukraine said 16 other ships are preparing to leave ports on the Black Sea. Reports say there are 600,000 tons of products ready to be shipped. But ships in some areas of the Black Sea are threatened by underwater mines. Other shipping companies are concerned about being hit by Russian rockets.
Both U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Kubrakov praised the restart of shipping. Kubrakov said the shipments will bring in $1 billion to Ukraine’s economy. Guterres said they will bring “stability.”
Olena Vitalievna lives in Odesa. She heard the Razoni sound its horn as it left the port.
“Finally life begins to move forward,” she said. She said she wants to see the city “bustle” or have a lot of activity, again.
One person who works on the ship is Abdullah Jendi of Syria. He said he is happy to be moving again after a long and worrisome stay in Ukraine during the war. He said he had “great fear” that the ship could be targeted in an attack.
Although boats are starting to move again and some people are feeling good, the war continues in Ukraine.
Both Russia and Ukraine continued fighting in the southern and eastern parts of the country over the weekend. The governor of Donetsk called for people to leave the area, expressing concern over 52,000 children. The cities of Kharkiv and Mykolaiv also faced attacks.
Experts said a Russian rocket hit Odesa shortly after the shipping agreement. So, the movements of grain might not last if there is another attack.
Volodymyr Sidenko is a researcher for the Razumkov Center in Kyiv. He said the first ship leaving does not solve the food problem. “It’s just the first step,” he said. He warned “it could also be the last” if attacks continue in southern Ukraine.
I’m Dan Friedell
Dan Friedell adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on reports by the Associated Press and Reuters.
Words in This Story
staple –n. an important food that is eaten very often
fertilizer –n. chemicals added to soil to improve plant or crop growth
stability –adj. a state in which things do not change too quickly
horn –n. a device that makes a loud sound as a warning
positive –adj. good, acceptable
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