Rail wagons loaded with grain from Ukraine have arrived in Spain, the government said Saturday, part of a pilot project to explore the viability of using trains while war blocks maritime routes.
Ukraine is a global major grain grower and exporter and almost all exports have traditionally been shipped from its Black Sea ports.
But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February has severely disrupted Ukrainian grain exports, sending food prices soaring.
As part of a pilot project to explore the viability of importing grain from Ukraine by rail, a freight train of Spanish state-owned operator Renfe left Madrid on August 9 for the Polish town of Chelm near the Ukrainian border.
The train consisting of 25 containers each measuring 40-foot (12 meters) was loaded with 600 tons of Ukrainian grain for the 2,400-kilometre (1,500-mile) return trip to Barcelona.
It arrived in the Catalan capital on Thursday night after stops in Lodz, central Poland and Duisburg, western Germany, Spain’s transport ministry said in a statement.
“The project allows us to analyze the technical and economic feasibility of grain rail transport as a complement to the maritime mode at a time marked by the war in Ukraine,” it added.
“The initiative has shown that, in the current context, long-distance rail transport requires a great effort of coordination between the different actors that participate in the process.”
The containers were fitted with special lining to carry grain, the ministry said.
On July 22, Russia and Ukraine signed a UN-backed deal brokered by Turkey to lift Moscow's naval blockade and release millions of tons of blocked grain, thereby helping avert a global food crisis.
Dozens of ships loaded with agricultural food products have left Ukrainian Black Sea ports since then.