BRUSSELS: Despite the resumption of grain exports from Ukraine's Black Sea ports under a UN and Turkish-brokered deal between Moscow and Kiev, the European Union (EU) intends to continue its efforts to create alternative freight routes for Ukrainian grain exports.
Despite the re-opening of maritime routes, an immediate return to pre-war levels of Ukrainian exports remains challenging and alternative export routes are still crucial, an EU Commission official told dpa news agency.
European Commissioner for Transport Adina Valean stressed that there was 'room for improvement', in the alternative routes being worked on, citing a lack of freight wagons, barge operators and storage facilities for Ukrainian produce.
According to the European Commission, Ukraine was the world's largest exporter of sunflower oil, the third largest exporter of rapeseed and barley, the fourth largest exporter of maize, and the fifth largest exporter of wheat before the beginning of Ukraine's invasion by Russia in February.
However, hopes are currently pinned on the agreement with Russia enabling a resumption of regular Ukrainian agricultural exports via the Black Sea.
According to EU figures, before the war, up to 5 million tonnes of grain passed through Ukraine's Black Sea ports each month.
Reaching that level again in the near future is considered highly unlikely, however, with the first ship to leave the port of Odessa under the UN deal carrying just 26,000 tonnes of maize.