According to the quoted source, these are just some of the 24,190 train cars loaded with various goods destined for export, such as vegetable oils, iron ore, metals, chemicals and coal, which were waiting on Tuesday to cross the western border of Ukraine, according to data of the state railway company Ukrzaliznytsia.
Valkeria Tkachov, Ukrzaliznytsia’s deputy commercial director, said 10,320 freight cars, almost half of them in total, were waiting at a railway junction near the village of Izov, the main railway transit point on Ukraine’s border with Poland. informs Agerpres. Located almost 130 kilometers north of Lviv, this railway junction is the main gateway to the Polish port of Gdansk.
One of the problems is created by the large volume of goods that have to find an alternative transport route, which generates shortages of freight cars and personnel, according to sources in the transport industry and within the Government.
Before the war, Ukraine, one of the world’s largest grain exporters, delivered 98 percent of its grain via the Black Sea. Normally, only a small part of Ukraine’s exports went to the railways, where costs are higher than in the case of shipping.
These difficulties are exacerbated by logistical problems, such as the gap between the railways in Ukraine and those in neighboring countries, such as Poland, a legacy of the former USSR.
According to experts, even though western Ukraine was not affected by the war as much as the eastern part of the country, rocket attacks took place near Lvov, including on oil facilities, and security in the border area was tightened.
Officially, Ukraine reported that its grain exports fell by one tenth last month from March 2021 in the context of port closures and that these disruptions affect the population of several countries.
“Hundreds of millions of people around the world will not receive food unless Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s ports is lifted in the near future,” the Ukrainian Ministry of Agriculture said in a statement on April 1st.
The quoted source mentions that the reduction of the number of freight wagons blocked at the border will take some time. Because the gauge of railways in Ukraine is about 1.5 meters, 10 centimeters longer than in Europe, railway staff have to lift the wagons and replace the chassis with some suitable for the railways in Poland, said Valerii Tkachov.
An alternative is to empty the grain from the Ukrainian wagons and put it in the Polish wagons, a procedure that can take up to 30 minutes for each wagon.
Tkachov estimated that up to 500 wagons now cross the border near Izov every day, which means it will take three weeks for all the wagons to cross the border. The Ukrzaliznytsia official added that there are dozens of other border crossing points, many of which are not crowded.
The Ukrainian railway company is working to increase capacity so that within three months up to 1,100 grain wagons will cross the border into Poland, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia on a daily basis, a tenfold increase from the March level. said Valerii Tkachov. He added that Ukrzaliznytsia is hiring additional staff, buying equipment to change chassis, redirecting staff from passenger trains to freight trains, and is also working to reduce other obstacles, such as customs procedures.
“We are working to speed up procedures … by reducing the number and duration of wagon inspections and bureaucratic procedures,” said Valerii Tkachov.
Official figures released by the Kyiv government on Sunday show that Ukraine exported 1.4 million tonnes of corn and wheat in March. This represents a quarter of the quantity exported in February and less than half of the approximately three million tonnes exported in March 2021.
But the latest data also includes grain being loaded on vessels that are stranded in Ukrainian ports, said Deputy Minister of Agriculture Taras Vysotsky. According to him, only 300,000 tons of agricultural products left Ukraine last month by rail. Vysotsky hoped that Ukraine would be able to export 1.5 million tonnes of agricultural products by rail each month, adding that this would be only a third of the volumes normally managed by ports but which would generate revenue. which needs the agricultural sector.
In parallel, the Kyiv authorities are discussing with Romania the delivery of agricultural products through the port of Constanta. That would mean transporting grain by train to the Danube ports, from where they will be loaded onto barges to transport them to Constanta, say industry officials. Once they arrive in Constanţa, the grain will have to be loaded aboard shipping ships, which will take them around the world, which makes the whole process a complex and expensive one.
According to the consulting firm APK-Inform, the cost of delivering grain from Ukraine to the port of Constanta would be 120-150 euros per tonne. By comparison, before the war, traders paid between $ 20 and $ 40 a tonne to transport grain to Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea.
A manager of a large trading company operating in Ukraine claims that even if the country manages to rapidly increase its exports of agricultural products, up to 700,000 tons and even one million tons per month, by rail and via the Danube, that would be just a “drop in the ocean.”
“We could reach 10-15% of the capacity needed. I think the risks to the economy are huge, “he said.
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