The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Russia is poised to grab more of Ukraine’s global grain exports this year amid the two countries’ nearly 18-month-long war.
In a report, the USDA said that Ukraine is forecast to produce only about two-thirds of the total amount of wheat compared to what it had supplied before Russia’s invasion in February 2022.
Meanwhile, Russia is projected to increase its export of wheat to 48 million tons and coarse grains to 9 million tons in the 2023-24 marketing year versus the previous year’s 33 millions tons of wheat and 7.6 million tons of coarse grains, according to the USDA.
The report comes as Russia and Ukraine escalate attacks against each other’s grain exports infrastructure, following Moscow’s exit from the 2022 U.N.-backed Black Sea Grain Initiative that allowed Ukraine to ship grain to food-insecure countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
Ukraine supplies 10% of the world wheat market, 15% of the corn market, and 13% of the barley market, but as a result of Russia’s targeting of the ports, Ukraine grain exports in July fell 40% from the previous month, driving up food prices around the world. Global food prices ticked up 1.3% in July, and the United Nations’ World Food Program has said it had to cut back on food aid to refugees in the Middle East.
Russian officials have said their actions are in “retribution” for a deadly explosion on the Kerch Bridge, the only direct access way from the annexed Crimean peninsula to the Russian mainland. Ukrainian forces have claimed responsibility for that attack.
However, one U.S. official told Politico that Russia was targeting Ukraine’s grain export infrastructure specifically “to increase their own market share and keep food prices artificially high.”