Ukraine hopes for grain exports breakthrough

STORY: Ukraine says a deal on resuming grain exports appears to be very close.

A Russian blockade has left more than 20 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain stuck in silos at the Black Sea port of Odesa.

Talks between the two sides, alongside Turkish and U.N. officials, resumed in Istanbul on Wednesday (July 13), raising hopes of an end to the standoff that has exposed millions to the risk of starvation.

Ukraine and Russia are major global wheat suppliers, and the blockade has sent the price of grains, cooking oils, fuel and fertilizer soaring.

Ukraine is also a significant producer of corn and sunflower oil, so clinching a deal to unblock exports is seen as vital for food security and to stabilize markets.

Farmers in both countries are currently harvesting this year's wheat crop.

July-November is usually the busiest time for traders to ship the new produce from both countries.

The coming harvest is also at risk as Ukraine is now short of storage space due to the halt in exports.

On Tuesday (July 12), Ukraine sparked hopes for an increase in grain exports following the reopening of a canal which provides access to inland river ports.

It expects monthly grain exports to rise by 500,000 tonnes as a result.

Kyiv is also negotiating with Romania and the European Commission about increasing shipments through another canal.