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Constanta lost the Ukrainian grain

Констанца изгуби украинското зърно

Ukrainian grain shipments through Romania's Black Sea port of Constanta fell 38 percent year-on-year in January, port data showed, raising concerns among operators that export routes created after Russia's invasion will disappear as Kiev makes more use of its own are ports.

Ukraine is one of the world's biggest grain exporters, and Constanta has become the biggest alternative export route to Kiev since the start of the war in February 2022, with grain arriving by road, rail and barge across the Danube.

Ukraine's exports through Constanţa, which did not exist before the war, stand at 8.6 million tonnes in 2022 and rose to 14 million tonnes last year, helped by both European Union-funded investment in the port and operators adding equipment.

But its transit volumes fell to 436,000 tonnes in January from 700,000 tonnes in January 2023, port authorities told Reuters.

"The perception among operators is that volumes are falling as Ukraine's corridor through its own ports is operating," Viorel Panait, manager of Constanta port operator Comvex CMVX.BX, told Reuters.

Ukraine created a transport corridor from its own ports in August that hugs the western Black Sea coast near Romania and Bulgaria, shortly after Russia pulled out of a UN-brokered Black Sea grain export deal.

Panait, who is also president of the Constanța Port Business Association, said new grain export control mechanisms introduced by Kiev last year to prevent tax evasion were contributing to the delay.

He added that Romanian port operators, logistics and rail companies have invested to increase capacity to handle Ukrainian grain, while EU-funded support schemes are also underway.

“There are fears that these export routes established in the last two years will be lost. Considering the equivalent costs of shipping through Ukrainian ports and Constanta, a rational way to preserve the new flows would be reasonable," he added.

However, some market analysts said they expected volumes to pick up again in the spring.

"We are seeing a lull in the market, Ukrainian farmers are hesitant to sell at such low prices, but exports will resume in March-April," Cesar Gheorghe of Romanian grain market consultancy AGRIColumn told Reuters.

He estimated that Romanian farmers will have a surplus for export of 20-22 million tons of grain in the 2024/25 season.

In January, US State Department Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Jim O'Brien said he expected Romania to remain Ukraine's largest alternative export route for grain and other goods.

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