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The number of Ukrainian grain ships leaving Istanbul following inspections dropped in January to its lowest rate since the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI) was launched in July, with Ukraine blaming Russian inspection teams for intentional delays, AgriCensus reported.

During January the inspection rate was 2.7 vessels/day but had dropped to just 2.5 ships/day in recent days, the 26 January report said. This was a fall of around 40% compared to the rate in the September-October 2022 period.

“This was… one of the lowest indicators for all the months of the existence of the ‘grain initiative’. It is predominantly due to the blocking of the grain corridor by Russian inspectors,” a note from the agriculture ministry said.

With priority generally given to inspecting vessels of over 15,000 tonnes, smaller ships faced longer waits, which could explain why the average daily tonnage of inspected vessels remained stable at 37,000 tonnes, AgriCensus wrote.

However, the overall export flow had dropped significantly, with January’s total at 2.4M tonnes of agricultural products, compared to 4.2M tonnes in October.

In addition, waiting times for inbound inspections remained at around 20 days on average, with some vessels waiting up to 40 days at the time of the report.

The grain deal was signed last July between Ukraine, Turkey, and the United Nations along with a mirror agreement with Russia that would guarantee a safe corridor for vessels leaving Ukraine through key deep water Black Sea ports.

The deal was extended on 17 November for a further 120 days.