A total of 33 cargo ships carrying around 720,000 tonnes of agricultural products have so far left Ukraine under a deal brokered by the United Nations (UN) and Turkey to unblock Ukrainian sea ports, Reuters quoted the Ukrainian agriculture ministry as saying.

The Joint Coordination Centre in Turkey that monitors implementation of the agreement put the total amount of grain and foodstuffs exported from three Ukrainian Black Sea ports since the deal was reached at 721,449 tonnes, the report said.

Grain exports from Ukraine’s dropped following Russia’s invasion of the country on 24 February and subsequent blockade of the country’s Black Sea ports.

Under the terms of the deal signed by Moscow and Kyiv on 22 July, three Black Sea ports were unblocked.

In addition to the vessels that had already left Ukraine, the agriculture ministry was quoted as saying that a further 18 were loading or waiting for permission to leave Ukrainian ports at the time of the 23 August statement.

Ukrainian grain exports in August could reach 4M tonnes, compared with 3M the previous month, the ministry said.

In a separate statement, the ministry was quoted as saying by Reuters that exports of key Ukrainian agricultural commodities had fallen by almost half since the start of the Russian invasion compared to the same period in 2021.

Agricultural exports between 24 February and 15 August this year dropped to 10M tonnes from around 19.5M tonnes in the same period last year, according to ministry data released on 22 August.

Ukraine exported 3.8M tonnes of corn, 1.4M tonnes of sunflowerseeds, almost 1M tonnes of sunflower oil and around 640,000 tonnes of wheat during the period, according to the data.

This year’s grain harvest in Ukraine was forecast to drop to around 50M tonnes from last year’s record 86M tonnes, the report said.

APK-Inform said that Ukraine, the world’s biggest sunflower oil producer and exporter, was likely to reduce its sunflowerseed harvest to no more than 10.7M tonnes this year compared to 16.6M last year.

Sunflower oil production was forecast between 3.5M-5M tonnes in 2022/23, compared with an expected 4.97M for 2021/22. Exports were projected at 3.1M-4.69M tonnes, depending on production and logistics impacted by the war.