Ukraine’s exports through an alternative Black Sea shipping corridor have reached almost four million metric tons since the route started operating in August, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Tuesday.

Ukraine launched a “humanitarian corridor” for ships bound for African and Asian markets to try to circumvent a de facto blockade in the Black Sea after Russia quit a United Nations-brokered deal that had guaranteed Kyiv’s seaborne exports during the war.

Ukrainian officials said the route – which runs along Ukraine’s southwest Black Sea coast, into Romanian territorial waters and onwards to Turkey, would also be used for grain shipments.

“The grain corridor is working. We are now overcoming the four million tons mark and maintaining positive dynamics,” Zelenskiy said on the Telegram messaging app.

Ukrainian transport authorities last week said 91 vessels exported 3.3 million metric tons of agricultural and metal products as of Nov. 9.

The situation with exports along the route became more complicated last week when a Russian missile hit a civilian vessel in an Odesa region port.

Officials said the route continued to operate, but brokers reported a rise in freight prices.

“This (attack) is of course bad, it affects the cost of freight and the willingness of traders to buy grain from us and work with Ukraine,” Ukrainian Agriculture Minister Mykola Solsky told national television late on Monday.

“We understand that Odesa region ports need to be protected, everyone is doing it and the situation is improving every week, and we will still export,” Solsky added.

Ukraine’s government expects a harvest of 79 million tons of grain and oilseeds in 2023, with its 2023/24 exportable surplus totalling about 50 million tons.

Ukrainian grain exports have fallen to 9.8 million metric tons as of Nov. 6 in the 2023/24 July-June marketing season from 14.3 million tons a season earlier.

The ministry gave no explanation for the drop but traders and farmers’ unions have said blocked Ukrainian Black Sea ports and Russian attacks on the country’s Danube River ports are the main reasons for lower exports.

Ukraine has traditionally shipped most of its exports through its deep water Black Sea ports.

Source: Reuters reported by Pavel Polityuk and edited by Sharon Singleton