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Ship loaded with grain leaves New York for Europe ahead of schedule due to war in Ukraine

SYRACUSE, NY (WRVO) - The war in Ukraine has speeded up the first shipment of grain this season out of the newly revamped Port of Oswego. More than 18,000 metric tons of soybeans grown in central New York is headed to Belgium and Ireland about a month ahead of schedule, in part because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“We were not really expecting a grain shipment until middle or late April. So the whole idea of being the first grain ship out of the Great Lakes, that was a shocker, said William Scriber, Executive Director of the Port of Oswego. “And that was all because of product demand, and I don’t think product demand is going to subside this year.”

Scriber said between the loss of grain farmed in Ukraine and the economic sanctions against Russia, the demand for grain is high, so a ship laden with soybeans, the Lake St. Clair, is headed out today, rather than initial plans for late this month.

"We just hit the perfect spot this first ship, where it was looking for a backhaul to Europe because of the demand for grain, and we fulfilled that demand quickly,” Scriber said.

The new high tech system in Oswego can unload a truckload of grain in less than a minute, so about 100 farmers from Oswego County and central New York were able to quickly bring their soybeans to the Port in recent weeks.

The Grain Export Center opened late last year with the help of a $15 million state grant. It allows farmers to use cheaper water transportation to get their product to international markets. Scriber expects the demand caused by the war in Ukraine to continue to increase. The next ship is expected to head out later this month, with another commodity impacted by the war.

"Corn is in huge demand, so we’ll be switching to corn in the spring, then reappraising the market,” he said. “Then looking to soybeans again this fall. So there will be grain ships on and off all year.”