Kernel Holding, Ukraine’s biggest grain shipper said it was having “limited success” in resuming exports amid the disarray caused by Russia’s invasion, which the group admitted had left its farm operations short of crop inputs too.

The sunflower oil-to-grain trading group said that it “remains stretched” thanks to the closure of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports because of the conflict.

“Notwithstanding the fundamentally strong season, the Russian invasion of Ukraine initiated on 24 February created significant uncertainties about the business performance” both in the current financial year, which ends next month, and in 2023.

Kernel had “stopped origination of grain and oilseeds, and substantially reduced export volumes,” besides shutting all but one of its oilseed processing plants.

‘Numerous bottlenecks’

The group said that it was now “focused on establishing alternative export routes” through Ukraine’s borders with European Union countries, and through Ukrainian ports on the river Danube.

However, while none of Kernel’s “critical facilities or infrastructure has suffered any significant damage”, the company said it had achieved “limited progress… so far” in its export recovery.

The company blamed “numerous bottlenecks along the road”.

Resolution efforts

The comments come amid a series of initiatives aimed at allowing Ukraine to resume grain exports – most lately talks with Russia and Turkey to open a corridor via the Bosphorus for the country’s grain exports.

Nonetheless, Ukraine should achieve 1.5m tonnes in grain exports this month, up from 1m tonnes in April, the Ukrainian Agrarian Business Club Association said earlier this week, targeting a further recovery to 3m tonnes per month.

Kernel reported exports of 8.0m tonnes of grain in the year to June 2021, equivalent to an 18% market share, ahead of the 10% claimed by Louis Dreyfus and Nibulon.

It had aimed to export 11m tonnes in the year to the end of next month, and had achieved 7.27m tonnes in the first nine months, to the end of March, up 15% year on year. Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

‘Lack of crop inputs’

The group also flagged disruption to its farming business from the conflict, in terms of hampering access to the likes of fertilizers and agrichemicals.

“Due to lack of certain crop inputs, Kernel yields for 2022 harvest might be undermined.”

However, its spring sowings campaign of the likes of corn and sunflowers had reached 370,000 hectares – a figure which while down by more than 30,000 hectares year on year, was above the 334,000 hectares that the company guided to earlier this month.

The group, which also seeded 88,000 hectares of winter crops such as wheat, added that “weather conditions are generally favourable both for winter and spring crops”.