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Ukrainian farmers export their harvest via Romania

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By Euronews  with AP
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Worker at the Comvex transport company oversees truck unload grain ar hub in Constanta
Worker at the Comvex transport company oversees truck unload grain ar hub in Constanta   -   Copyright  NA

The Breadbasket of Europe is under threat.

Ukraine is one of the world's largest producers of sunflower oil, wheat, rapeseed and maize.

However, Ukrainian vessels transporting grain cannot set sail. With their ports blocked by the conflict, exporters are now looking to Constanta in Romania as an alternative. 

Trains, lorries and barges are being used to transport the goods to the strategic port city from small Danube ports such as Reni and Izmail in the southwest of Ukraine.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation says nearly 25 million tonnes of grain are currently stuck in the country. The FAO claims that Moscow's troops are also looting storage facilities and transporting the grain back to Russia

Bulgaria says it is willing to help export Ukrainian stocks from its port in Varna and is currently upgrading its infrastructure.

In the meantime, Constanta is moving the cargo as fast as it can.

The Lady Dimine is the second vessel to moor at Pier 80, bound for Portugal once loaded.

The first ship, filled with 70,000 tonnes of Ukrainian corn, left Constanta in early April and a third is scheduled in the coming days.

"There is a general feeling of compassion for the unfortunate situation in Ukraine, they are our neighbours. We all feel the need to help them as much as we can," says Viorel Panait, the manager of the Comvex transport company.

"We have registered this year, in the first months, against the background of the evoked situation, an increase both for the activity of minerals and for the activity of cereals. It should also be noted that large quantities of ore, which should have been destined for the iron and steel industry in Europe to a large extent, are being prevented from reaching Europe. This creates production difficulties" he says.

War in Ukraine 'a challenge, and an opportunity'

The port's manager Florin Goidea says the war in Ukraine is a challenge but also an opportunity.

"Although a few months have passed, the situation is still only beginning. Slowly, corridors are being created to bring goods to the port of Constanta and help with exports, it is very important now to help Ukraine's exports to support its economy" he says. 

"Both river and sea trade pass here. We also use this path, the Danube-Black Sea Canal and the Danube. Water transport is very cheap compared to rail and trucks. It is very cheap because it moves large quantities of goods".

Meanwhile, farmers in Ukraine are feeling the pressure, it's planting season and this year growers require more fuel and fertilizer to replenish their stocks.

But they also face additional challenges: planters have found themselves on the front line of a Russian invasion that has tainted swathes of the country with undetonated mines, shells and rockets.

They face a unique risk of setting off one of the devices while working the soil, one more piece of worrying news for next year's harvest.

Demining teams have been flooded with calls to destroy undetonated warheads. 

Police said the latest injury was in the Kyiv area where a farmer in the village of Gogoliv hit a mine on his tractor while in the fields on Wednesday.

Maria Kolesnyk, with analytics firm ProAgro Group, told AFP that about 20 incidents had been recorded of farmers being struck by accidental explosions of war ordnance, but it wasn't clear how many instances were fatal.

"In the agro community today the most sought-after profession is the sappers," she said. "We desperately need the help of the international community because Ukrainian professionals are working 24/7."