Skip to main content

Commentary

Commentary

Will this be the end of Ukrainian grain exports?

Jul 31, 2023

Share

After pulling out of the grain deal with Ukraine, Russia has attacked the Ukrainian port city of Odessa and destroyed around 60,000 tons of grain stored for export. In the coming weeks, the global food supply will be significantly reduced, food prices will likely soar and some countries could face famines.

Straight Arrow News contributor Peter Zeihan believes Ukraine could even lose the “capacity to provide for its own population and become a food importer within the year.”

Excerpted from Peter’s July 28 “Zeihan on Geopolitics” newsletter:

Today’s video comes to you from Pine Creek in the Collegiate Wilderness of central Colorado.

Russia has pulled out of the grain deal brokered by Turkey and the UN, and the countdown on Ukrainian agriculture has officially started.

The Russians are wasting no time, as attacks have already begun on the physical infrastructure that allowed Ukrainian wheat, corn, and sunflower to reach international markets by ship. Unfortunately, none of this is new; Russia is looking for any way to crush the Ukrainian economy and kickstart a famine in the region.

Efforts to export these products via other channels are somewhat futile, considering the cost breakdown and the risk involved. With exports already down by two-thirds before this deal was abandoned, this winter wheat crop will likely be the last one of size to hit international markets.

And it doesn’t stop there. As Russia continues to target agricultural infrastructure, Ukraine will lose the capacity to provide for its own population and become a food importer within the year.

Everyone, Peter Zion here coming to you from Pine Creek in the collegiate wilderness in central Colorado. Today we’re talking about what’s going on with Ukraine war and agriculture. Specifically, the Russians have pulled out of the grain shipment deal that allowed the Ukrainians to send wheat and corn and sunflower and such out by water primarily through the ports of McLouth and Odessa. And they’ve since started targeting the physical infrastructure that allowed those shipments to happen. Now, for those of you who have been following a coverage since the war began, you know that there’s nothing here that’s really too, too new or unique. The Russians have been going after the agricultural supply chain in Ukraine from the beginning, going after cold storage facilities and maintenance bays, rail systems, loading facilities, all ports, there’s nothing new here. The exception, of course, is stuff for export, that came to a handful of very specific ports that were in a deal that was brokered by Turkey and managed by the United Nations. And that’s the deal that the Russians have now pulled out of. And so the Russians have really just expanded the scope of their attacks to the facilities that are specifically linked to that deal. And ones that allow the Ukrainians sorry, it’s a little chilly here. Ones that allow the Ukrainians to export in general. Now, Ukraine had already seen a mammoth drop off, and their ability to export goods in Greenland specific. The problem is transport costs. For those of you who’ve been following me from the beginning it you know, that moving things by oceangoing carrier is about 112, the cost of moving it by truck and so having Odessa and MCLI have and variable and all the other facilities offline because of the war or constraint has really hurt the Ukrainians a lot. They have attempted to divert some cargo to the Danube and river ports are still, you know, maritime transport. But the sort of Bulker that can operate on a river is significantly smaller, you’re talking maybe at most 10,000 deadweight tons versus 100,000, for an ocean going Bulker, that can dock it to Odessa. And even then you have to truck primarily the green to it. So you’re talking about something that has an order of magnitude higher transport costs, and then it’s competing with roads and trucks for everything else that Ukraine needs. Right now, there has been some effort to do rail, the problem is twofold. Number one is distance, you’ve got to get not just to Poland or Romania, but through them. These countries were also significant green exporters, and they viewed the Ukrainian grain coming into the markets as product dumping. So you now have to get it not just to Warsaw, Gdansk, you have to get it all the way to Hamburg. And that means you need those rail systems for two and three times the distance that you originally thought. Second, there’s not a lot of interoperability between the Ukrainian rail system, which is post Soviet, and the European system which runs on a different gauge. So you also have to switch things over. So over all total grain exports from Ukraine from before the war until a month ago, we’re already down by well over two thirds. Now we’re looking at probably the rest of that going away. Because if you can’t even get stuff to the Danube, because the Russians are now bombing storage facilities right on the river, right on the border with NATO. You’re looking at the inability of the large scale producers in Ukraine to be able to function. Remember that agriculture writ large is one of the most financially dependent industries in the world. It if something goes wrong, you don’t just have to wait a season, you have to wait a year, maybe two before you can kind of get things back online. So not just for infrastructure repair, but think finance, because if people who harvested grain a year ago, are now discovering they can’t even get it out of the silos to get it to the international markets, then they’re not getting any income. They don’t have income, they don’t have the money to plant. So this winter wheat crop that has been harvested right now is probably the last one of size that we’re going to see actually playing in international markets. So last year really was the last year that Ukraine is a significant agricultural producer. Now the Russians are doing this for two big reasons. Number one, they’re trying to do anything they can to crush the Ukrainian economy. And number two, now that they can’t take out the power grid, because it’s summer, no one’s gonna freeze to death in the summer. They’re gonna have to the food supply system in order to to trigger a deliberate famine. It’s a pretty dark picture. There’s no way you can expect this to get cleaned up very soon. What we’ve seen with the missile strikes on the sort of the sort of facilities down in the Danube region or in Odessa, is that Ukraine has gotten some decent air defense up In a few specific places, most notably Kyiv, the capital, but there’s not enough to go around. And so these shots are still getting through. And it’s unclear whether or not the West even if it had the political will, has the military bandwidth to spare more equipment in order to provide air defense for a country that is roughly the same size as Texas, building it from scratch. Certain things are more important than others. Key F is obviously more important than ADESA. And unless somebody is willing to intervene and protect maritime shipments, which is basically a declaration of war against the Russians, this is probably the end of Ukraine as a significant and food exporter. And very soon it is going to be a food importer, because it will no longer have the capacity to grow enough for its own population. And that enters the war to a fundamentally new phase. To that end, one of the things that I’ve been encouraging people to do is to find a charity in Ukraine that helps people out. The one that I have chosen is med share. They provide medical assistance to communities who are incapable of providing for themselves and there’s a donation link at the end of all of my newsletters. I encourage you to tap that often. Keep in mind that the newsletter is free and it will always be free and I will never share your data with anyone but in exchange if you do come across something that you find useful and you think you would have paid for it just kick a little change to med share it would appreciate it or find your own medicine Sans Frontiers is a great one Red Cross UNICEF, these are organizations that are operating aggressively in Ukraine to try to alleviate the human suffering that has been caused by the war. All right, that’s it. Bye

Video Library

Latest Commentary

We know it is important to hear from a diverse range of observers on the complex topics we face and believe our commentary partners will help you reach your own conclusions.

The commentaries published in this section are solely those of the contributors and do not reflect the views of Straight Arrow News.


Latest Opinions

In addition to the facts, we believe it’s vital to hear perspectives from all sides of the political spectrum. We hope these different voices will help you reach your own conclusions.

The opinions published in this section are solely those of the contributors and do not reflect the views of Straight Arrow News.

Weekly Voices

Left Opinion Right Opinion

Wednesday

Left Opinion Right Opinion

Thursday

Left Opinion Right Opinion

Friday

Left Opinion Right Opinion

By entering your email, you agree to the Terms & Conditions and acknowledge the Privacy Policy.