THE first shipment of grain from Ukraine since it was invaded by Russia last February, is due to arrive at Foynes Port this afternoon.
The Panama-flagged NAVI STAR left Odessa Port on August 5 carrying 33,000 tonnes of grain to be used by Irish farmers for animal feed.
The shipment was facilitated by a UN-backed deal lifting Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea. Two other vessels are bound for Britain and Turkey, with 24,000 tonnes of grain between them.
The Navi Star cargo, which is being handled by Cork-based grain and feed company R&H Hall, is seen as a positive milestone for the global grain supply chain which has been in crisis since the war started.
Limerick Fianna Fáil TD and former Defence Minister Willie O’Dea said he was “delighted the deal to allow grain exports leave Ukraine is still holding” and he said he hoped it might signal the start of a potential peace deal in Ukraine.
“For months, grain supplies were held up in the ports in Ukraine and they couldn’t get out. Maybe this signifies that the reality of a peace deal is possible. It might be a small indication that it may be possible for some sort of peace deal to be worked out in the not too distant future,” he explained.
The Limerick TD said Ireland is over-reliant on grain exports, and he agreed the government should focus on providing more support for a stronger indigenous cereals sector.
“We should be doing more for indigenous industry and more for grain growing by farmers, because this war shows us how fragile the whole thing is. Take Germany for example, they got addicted to cheap Russian gas and they made no effort to get away from it, and now they’re scrambling.”
Philip Lynch, senior trader with R&H Hall, thanked the captain and crew of the Navi Star for making the journey to Ireland and said he hoped it was the first step “in returning some degree of certainty to the global food supply chain in what remains a volatile situation”.
Ukrainian Ambassador to Ireland Larysa Gerasko said she was “happy that Ireland is among the first countries to receive Ukrainian corn by sea, as Ireland strongly supports Ukraine and is a true friend of the Ukrainian people”.
Ms Gerasko said Ireland had taken “extraordinary steps to provide a safe haven for our nationals fleeing the war, and this shipment will lift the burden of uncertainty from the Irish farmers”
She added that Ukraine would fulfil all its obligations under the Black Sea Grain Initiative, but she stressed global food security would only be maintained “if Russia also sticks to the initiative’s provisions”.
Ms Gerasko said Russia’s war on Ukraine was the “cause of a global food crisis that could bring serious political and economic consequences”.
The Ukrainian Embassy in Dublin claimed Russia has already committed “food terrorism” by “purposefully destroying our agricultural infrastructure and stealing Ukrainian grain and agricultural machinery”.