Rail transport of grains in Ukraine increased this month, but still only reached 55% of potential capability, AgriCensus reported from a Kyiv-based online grains meeting.

Up to 320,000 tonnes of grains were exported by rail between 1-19 April, Valerii Tkachov, Ukrainian railways deputy director of the commercial department, said during the Trend and Hedge Club webinar on 20 April.

The April figure compared to 415,000 tonnes exported during the whole of March, including volumes loaded at the country's shallow water ports – the last water-borne options available to bulk cargoes following Russia's invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.

At full capacity, Ukraine’s rail system can handle around 3,422 carriages/day, according to the report. With each carriage moving around 65 tonnes, that meant the service could deliver around 222,000 tonnes/day.

Of the total running stock, around 731 wagons could handle grain, giving a maximum capacity of just under 50,000 tonnes/day and a potential maximum figure of around 1.5M tonnes/month of grain exports by rail, Tkachov said.

However, only 55% of the total rail capacity is currently being used, according to Tkachov, with grains comprising 39% of that figure.

While Ukrainian railways were theoretically able to deliver more carriages to the border, the difficulties were now coming from the other side - the European nations bordering Ukraine.

Although there were 13 border points available for exports, the industry only four to five terminals that had smooth logistic capacities and these had become very busy. Carriages were queuing, with some reporting delays of over 20 days, AgriCensus wrote. The busiest terminals were: Izov-Grubeshiv (on the Polish border), Vadul-Siret-Dornesti and Dyakovo-Halmeu (Romanian border) and Mohyliv-Podilskyi-Velchynets (Moldovan border).

There was also a huge deficit of available carriages on the EU side, and different widths on Ukrainian and European rail tracks. This meant cargoes either had to be re-loaded onto European wagons for onward transit or loaded onto an EU trolley – known as a bogie – requiring additional attention from operators.

Road freight export remained very small as most operators did not have the required licenses and trucks did not meet EU standards.