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The European Union could provide alternative routes for almost all of Ukraine’s grain exports following Russia’s decision to stop their passage through the Black Sea, the bloc’s agriculture commissioner said.

Janusz Wojciechowski said on Tuesday that the EU should expand its “streets of solidarity” – road, river and rail links first established in 2022 after Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine – to allow more food to be transported from Ukraine and Moldova to EU ports for further shipments to Africa and Asia.

“We are ready to export almost everything that Ukraine needs along the roads of solidarity[to send]. . . about 4 million tons per month. We reached this volume in November 2022,” he said at a press conference in Brussels after the meeting of agriculture ministers.

The EU Solidarity Stripes it currently transports about 60 percent of Ukraine’s grain exports, with the remaining 40 percent going via the Black Sea.

Russia’s decision earlier this month to back off from the UN-backed Black Sea Grain Initiative, which guaranteed safe passage for ships using the route, raised prices.

Wheat prices across Russia climbed to a five-month high on Tuesday expanded his attacks to ports that transport grain by river to Romania and destroyed a grain silo in Odessa.

Wheat futures traded in Chicago rose as much as 2.6 percent to $7.7725 a bushel, their highest since mid-February.

Between them, Russia and Ukraine produce about 30 percent of the world’s traded wheat, raising fears of shortages.

Wojciechowski said transit costs, such as train and truck rental costs, for Ukrainian grain were too high and that the EU should subsidize them, otherwise customers would buy cheaper Russian products instead.

He also supported Ukraine’s demand to move customs and health checks on food cargo from the EU’s borders to its ports to reduce queues and costs.

“Work is intensifying to increase the capacity of solidarity lanes and also to ensure that we can streamline procedures and facilitate trade flows,” said Miriam Garcia Ferrer, the European Commission’s trade spokesperson.

Lithuania proposed opening a northern route from Poland to the Baltic ports. In the letter, Vilnius asked the commission to invest in the route, which it said could transport 25 million tonnes of grain a year.

Kęstutis Navickas, Lithuania’s agriculture minister, told reporters that European railway companies should pay for the modernization of the necessary infrastructure. The railway gauge in Ukraine is different than in Poland, so cargo has to be moved from one train to another at the border.

Kyiv also wrote a request to Brussels for financial support and the transfer of customs and health controls.

Since the start of the war in February 2022, 41 million tonnes of grain, oilseeds and related products have left Ukraine via solidarity routes, compared to 33 million tonnes via the Black Sea.

Wojciechowski also said that the commission will discuss the request of Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia next month expand business curbs on the import of grain from Ukraine. Five frontline states say the crop glut has depressed prices for their own farmers and depleted storage space – although Poland’s farm commissioner said much has now moved on.

They lifted the import ban after the commission agreed that Ukrainian shipments of five types of grain would only pass through the country on their way to other destinations.

The five countries want to extend the restrictions to berries and other crops and extend the measures beyond their scheduled expiration on September 15.

Robert Telus, Poland’s agriculture minister, has faced calls from farmers to resign over the issue, and the government is trying to appease them ahead of national elections in the fall.

But German Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir criticized the five countries for proposing the restrictions despite taking 100 million euros of EU money to compensate farmers for lost income. “It is not acceptable for states to receive funding from Brussels as a form of mitigation and then still close their borders,” he told reporters.

Luis Planas, Spain’s agriculture minister, who chaired Tuesday’s ministerial meeting, said there were “mixed feelings” about the idea.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attacked this move in his late-night speech on Monday. “Any extension of restrictions is absolutely unacceptable and downright un-European. Europe has the institutional capacity to act more rationally than closing borders for a specific product,” he said.

Additional reporting by Roman Olearchyk in Kyiv and Raphael Minder in Warsaw

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