Deputy Agriculture Minister Taras Vysotsky said Russian troops had seized “several hundred thousand tons” and added that he feared they would also steal the rest, in a statement to Ukrainian news agency RBC, quoted by Spanish Efe.
Vysotsky said one and a half million tons of grain are stored in Russian-controlled areas, and said troops are expected to steal most of it.
The Ukrainian information portal LB had written last week that in the Russian-controlled Kherson region, Moscow forces will only allow farmers to work if they provide 70 percent of future crops.
Ukraine’s war has dealt a severe blow to exports of wheat and other grains, and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said the conflict was the main reason why prices had risen to their highest levels since the 1990s.
Prior to the Russian invasion on February 24, Ukraine exported five million tons of agricultural products each month through the ports of Odessa and Mykolaiv, which are now blocked.
Ukraine was the world’s third largest exporter of barley and the fourth and fifth largest exporter of oats and maize.
Russia launched a military offensive in Ukraine on February 24, killing some 3,000 civilians, according to the UN, warning that the actual number is likely to be much higher.
The military offensive led to the escape of more than 12 million people, more than 5.4 million of whom were out of the country, according to the latest UN data.
The international community generally condemned the Russian attack, which responded by sending weapons to Ukraine and strengthening economic and political sanctions on Moscow.