The European Commission today published an action plan to help Ukraine export its agricultural goods in the wake of Russia’s invasion of the country.
Termed “EU-Ukraine solidarity lanes”, the initiatives outlined in the plan intend to link up Ukraine’s agricultural exports with EU transporters, as well as EU ports on the Baltic Sea and in Bulgaria. The commission states that such activities could also help Kyiv import goods “of first necessity”, such as humanitarian aid, animal feed, and fertilisers.
Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has led to the blockade of the country’s ports on the Black Sea, which the commission says is “threatening global food security”.
“20 million tonnes of grains have to leave Ukraine in less than three months using the EU infrastructure,” explained EU Commissioner for Transport Adina Vălean.
“This is a gigantesque challenge, so it is essential to coordinate and optimise the logistic chains, put in place new routes, and avoid, as much as possible, the bottlenecks,” she continued.
According to the commission, “(u)nder normal circumstances, 75% of Ukraine’s grain production is exported, generating around 20% of national annual export revenues. Before the war, Ukrainian Black Sea ports accounted for 90% of its export of grain and oilseeds. Around one third of the exports is destined to Europe, China, and Africa, respectively”.
In today’s communication, the commission calls on EU market players to make available additional freight rolling stock, vessels, and lorries. It will also establish a “matchmaking logistics platform” to enable member states to “designate dedicated Solidarity Lanes contact points (a ‘one-stop shop’)” which would link up producers and transporters across the EU-Ukraine border.
According to the commission, “thousands of wagons” are currently halted on the Ukrainian side of the EU border. The current average waiting time for rail freight leaving Ukraine for the EU is 16 days, and as high as 30 days at some crossing points.
The rail issue is further complicated due to the difference in gauge size for railway wagons between Ukraine and the EU, which can lead to additional delays.
As a solution, the EU executive today also requested that Ukrainian agricultural export shipments be prioritised along the EU’s transport corridors and that market players “urgently transfer mobile grain loaders to the relevant border terminals to speed up transhipment”.
Financial guarantees will also be offered to EU transport operators to facilitate their entry into Ukraine, whilst when it comes to customs, national authorities are urged to apply “maximum flexibility and to ensure adequate staffing to accelerate procedures at border crossing points”.
Given the limited storage capacity in Ukraine, the commission said it will also “assess available storage capacity in the EU and coordinate with Member States to help secure more capacity for temporary storage of Ukrainian exports”.
Longer term, the EU executive will aim to increase the infrastructure capacity of new export corridors and establish “new infrastructure connections in the framework of the reconstruction of Ukraine”.
This is the latest initiative on the part of the commission to bolster trade with Ukraine in the wake of the invasion.
In April it proposed to eliminate temporarily all outstanding customs duties on imports from Ukraine under the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, as well as to suspend all trade defence measures on Ukrainian steel.