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In July 2022, three Ukrainian ports situated on the Black Sea, which were initially blockaded after the start of the Russian-Ukrainian war, started exporting grain under the "Black Sea Grain Initiative" agreement. The accord was signed for 120 days between the United Nations, Ukraine, Russia, and Turkey, and was extended twice – once in November 2022 for 120 days, and again in March 2023 for 60 days.
Russia claims this agreement expired on March 18 and so far has not shown any signs of extending it. In return, Moscow wants the Western nations to remove sanctions on payment transfers, logistics, and insurance services that are impeding Russian agricultural exports.
As Ukraine's concerns regarding the future of the international agreement, Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov declared on Friday that the "Danube Cluster" presents a feasible alternate route for exporting agricultural products. In a post on his Facebook page, Kubrakov stated, "Without a doubt, the Danube Cluster has emerged as a crucial component for global food security in light of the restricted operations of Black Sea ports."
Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, in February last year, and until now, Ukraine has increased its exports via its three ports on the Danube to 1.5 million tons of grain per month.
Meanwhile, Ukraine has deepened the Bâstroe Canal in violation of international agreements and negatively affecting the Romanian portion of the Danube Delta in an attempt to increase food exports through its Danube ports and hopes that a deeper canal will allow it to export an additional 500,000 tons of grain per month.
According to Kubrakov, the dredging works carried out in the Bâstroe Canal will make it "operational", and Ukraine is "reviving the Bâstroe Canal as a possible alternative route for exports of agricultural products".
Ukraine is also concerned about import bans introduced by several Central and Eastern European countries, fearing that Ukrainian food supplies could have negative effects on their farmers.
In several European countries including Romania, farmers have been protesting against the increase of grain exports from Ukraine that are affecting the national economy.