The blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, along with infrastructure challenges, are preventing nearly 25 million tonnes of grain from being exported, a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) official said Friday.
"It's an almost a grotesque situation we see at the moment in Ukraine,” said Josef Schmidhuber, deputy director of FAO's markets and trade division, at a media briefing in Geneva. “There are nearly 25 million tonnes of grain that could be exported but that cannot leave the country simply because of the lack of infrastructure, the blockade of the ports.”
Ukraine is one of the world's largest grain-producing countries.
At the same time, in the months of July and August, the new crop will be coming in, Schmidhuber said, and "despite the war, harvest conditions don't look that dire."
But, he continued, “that could really mean that there is not enough storage capacity going forward in Ukraine particularly if there is no ‘wheat corridor’ opening up for exports from Ukraine.”
CNN previously reported that Russian forces are stealing thousands of tons of grain from Ukrainian farmers, as well as targeting food storage sites with artillery, according to multiple sources. Ukraine's defense ministry said Thursday an estimated 400,000 tons of grain had been stolen to date.
The theft of grain on such a huge scale — combined with the dislocation of war — could affect world markets. Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov said: "If we do not harvest (the) next crop, the effect of hunger can be significant. And the main export route is ports which are currently blocked."
CNN's Tim Lister contributed reporting to this post.