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First ship carrying Ukrainian grain finally sold after Lebanese buyer refused cargo

Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni unloading at Mersin Port in southern Turkey, shipping agent says
Sierra Leone-flagged cargo vessel Razoni sailing along the Bosphorus Strait on 3 August 2022 (AFP)

The first grain cargo to depart Ukraine since Russia's invasion has been sold in Turkey after its original buyer in Lebanon refused to take possession of the shipment , a Turkish shipping agent told Middle East Eye.

"[The] cargo sold... it will discharge at Mersin," Ahmed al-Fares, from the Ashram Maritime Agency, told MEE, referring to the Turkish port city.

Fares, who is the Istanbul-based shipping agent for the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni, did not disclose the buyer.

According to Reuters, the ship will unload 1,500 tonnes of corn in Turkey, and will then proceed to Egypt with the rest of its cargo.

The Razoni, which was loaded with about 26,000 tonnes of corn, had been anchored off Turkey's southern coast since Sunday after the Lebanese buyer refused to purchase the cargo.

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According to Fares, the original buyer had raised concerns over the quality of the grain, due to the five-month delay in its shipment.

The difficulty of finding a buyer underscores the challenges of getting Ukrainian food supplies to market amid a global food crisis. It also poses challenges for ship owners. 

"Under this situation, I don't think anybody will go to load from Ukraine with this pressure," Fares said. "The situation is not very good. Every week just two or three vessels are moving. The agreement is still not strong."

Fares said ship owners will likely want to see higher freight rates and more guarantees before sending their ships into the Black Sea.

The cargo was initially destined for Tripoli, Lebanon. The Mediterranean country had relied on Russia and Ukraine for more than 70 percent of its wheat imports before the war. Food inflation in Lebanon hit 122 percent this year.

The Razoni was the first ship to set off from a Ukrainian Black Sea port as part of a UN deal struck between Moscow and Kyiv that was brokered by Turkey.

Turkey is also grappling with soaring inflation, as the conflict in Ukraine exacerbates the country's currency crisis. Food prices jumped by 91.6 percent in May, according to official data.