Berlin is considering a special fund aimed at creating a “grain bridge” from Ukraine
The German government is working to expedite the export of Ukrainian grain by rail, with plans being considered to establish a special fund to pay for the project.
Authorities are “working at full speed so that grain from Ukraine can be transported by rail in order to prevent famines worldwide,” Michael Theurer, a member of the Bundestag and the government’s commissioner for railways, told Germany’s Handelsblatt newspaper on Sunday.
To facilitate the creation of a “grain bridge” Berlin is mulling setting up a special fund to purchase wagons as well as providing an export credit guarantee to carriers, the paper wrote. Additional assistance could be provided to transfer terminals at the Ukrainian border because the country’s railway network uses a broader gauge than neighboring nations.
German officials believe up to 10 million tons of grain could be transported out of Ukraine by rail.
The German Agricultural Trade Association along with the Grain Trading Association of the Hamburg Stock Exchange, told journalists that they had already established contact with agricultural and trading companies in the country. Industry representatives said that they were “trying to organize transport, to accomplish the unloading of various types of trucks, cars or containers and to work out payment terms.”
However, businesses “starting from agricultural firms in Ukraine all the way to the operator of port terminals are facing problems, which they cannot solve on their own,” the associations emphasized, calling on the German government to lend a helping hand.
They are urging German authorities to mobilize unused locomotives and even old wagons. On top of that, trucks laden with Ukrainian crops should be given priority at the border to reduce waiting times, which can take up to three days, the associations noted. Additionally, they want Ukrainian trucks of Euro 2 emission standards to be temporarily allowed into the EU.
The business associations also suggested postponing some construction and repair works planned along key rail routes to ensure capacity is maximized.
Ukraine is a major producer and exporter of corn and wheat. However, since the start of Russia’s offensive against the country in late February, its ability to export crops has been severely hit, according to authorities in Kiev. President Volodymyr Zelensky has repeatedly pointed out that his country has lost access to most of its ports after Russian forces took control of several regions in the south of Ukraine.
Several nations in North Africa and the Middle East have reported grain shortages. The US and the EU have accused the Kremlin of potentially creating famine situations in those regions.
Moscow has rejected those accusations, saying it is ready to provide safe passage for the grain-laden ships through the Black Sea and that the disruption stems from the Ukrainian military planting mines along the coast. In early June, President Vladimir Putin guaranteed the safe passage of Ukrainian vessels carrying grain.
Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.