Romania's plan to boost Ukraine grain transit very achievable, minister says

A cargo carrying over 71,000 tonnes of Ukrainian corn finished loading in the Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania's objective to boost the monthly transit capacity for Ukrainian grain through its Black Sea port of Constanta to four million metric tons is edging closer as infrastructure projects advance, the transport minister said on Thursday.

Transit through Romania was a record 3 million tons in October alone, minister Sorin Grindeanu said, speaking after a meeting with officials from Ukraine, Moldova, the European Commission and the United States to assess Ukraine's biggest alternative export route for grains.

"This shows there is room to reach 4 million tons," he said. He added a European Union-funded project to enable round-the-clock navigation on the Danube river's Sulina canal, which goes to Constanta, has been finalised and will become operational pending staff training.

Moldova, bordering Romania and Ukraine, was also upgrading checkpoints and railroad infrastructure to help transit.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said the export of goods through Romania amounted to over 3 million tons on average since the start of 2023, half of which was grain, with road checkpoints much improved, while existing railroad infrastructure has not been used to its full capacity.

Ukraine is one of the world's biggest grain exporters, and Constanta has become Ukraine's largest alternative export route since Russia invaded in February 2022, with grains arriving by road, rail or barge across the Danube.

During January-October, Ukraine shipped 11.7 million tons of grain through Constanta, the port authority told Reuters, up from 10.5 million at the end of September and from 8.6 million in total in 2022.

"The Danube corridor is the most effective of the solidarity lanes that the European Commission has put in place after the attack of Russia on Ukraine," said Magda Kopczynska, the Commission’s director general for mobility and transport.

"It will remain so not only now during the war, but it needs to remain an important connecting element when it comes to transport integration of both Ukraine and Moldova with the European Union."

(Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Grant McCool)