KYIV/ISTANBUL (REUTERS) - The ship Brave Commander has left the Ukrainian port of Pivdennyi, carrying the first cargo of humanitarian food aid bound for Africa from Ukraine since Russia's invasion, Refinitiv Eikon data showed on Tuesday (Aug 16).
Ukraine's grain exports have slumped since the start of the war because of the closure of its Black Sea ports, driving up global food prices and sparking fears of shortages in Africa and the Middle East.
Three Black Sea ports were unblocked last month under a deal between Moscow and Kyiv, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, making it possible to send hundreds of thousands of tonnes of Ukrainian grain to buyers.
The Brave Commander, carrying 23,000 tonnes of wheat, left for Djibouti with supplies destined for consumers in Ethiopia, Ukraine's Infrastructure Ministry said.
"The ministry and the United Nations are working on ways to increase food supplies for the socially vulnerable sections of the African population," it said in a statement.
World Food Programme (WFP) executive director David Beasley said the most important step in combating hunger globally is the opening of Ukraine's Black Sea ports.
"It will take more than grain ships out of Ukraine to stop world hunger, but with Ukrainian grain back on global markets we have a chance to stop this global food crisis from spiralling even further," he said in a statement.
Despite the developments, the world still faces an unprecedented food crisis, the WFP said, adding that up to 50 million people in 45 countries are on the edge of famine.
Ukraine can export three million tonnes of grain from its ports in September and be able in the future to export four million tonnes a month, said Deputy Infrastructure Minister Yuriy Vaskov.
He said Ukraine had received applications for 30 ships to come to Ukraine in the next two weeks to export grain, while the total export volume so far was about 600,000 tonnes.
Turkey's Defence Ministry said five ships, including the Brave Commander, left Ukrainian ports on Tuesday carrying corn and wheat, three from Chornomorsk and two from Pivdennyi. That lifts the total number of ships to leave under the deal to 21.
Four more ships bound for Ukraine were to be inspected on Tuesday by the joint coordination centre set up in Istanbul by Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and the UN.