Time for Ukraine grain exports ebbing as harvest looms says lawmaker

Grain is loaded on a truck at the Mlybor flour mill facility, in Chernihiv region
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By Sabine Siebold

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Time is running out to get some 22 million tonnes of grain out of Ukraine ahead of the new harvest as Russia continues to blockade the country's Black Sea ports, Ukrainian lawmaker Yevheniia Kravchuk said on Wednesday.

"We have about maybe a month and a half before we start to collect the new harvest," she told Reuters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos, adding there was not sufficient space to store the fresh harvest.

Warnings of a global food crisis are growing as Russia and Ukraine together account for nearly a third of global wheat supplies, while Ukraine is also a major exporter of corn, barley, sunflower oil and rapeseed oil.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Tuesday called for talks with Moscow on unlocking wheat exports trapped in Ukraine as a result of a Russian sea blockade.

On Wednesday, Interfax cited Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko as saying Moscow was ready to provide a humanitarian corridor for vessels carrying food to leave Ukraine, in return for lifting some sanctions.

Ukraine is expecting the new harvest to amount to some 70% of last year's crop as some of the fields are now under Russian control or have been mined, Kravchuk said.

"Grain is okay because we switched some of the fields into grain...sunflower which grows mainly in the south - it would be a big problem," she added, referring to the south of the country, where Russia has occupied much of the territory.

Kravchuk called for help in demining fields and for fuel support as farmers needed diesel for their tractors and Ukraine had lost much of its refining capacity due to Russian attacks.

(Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Editing by Alexander Smith)