Poland as an alternative Ukrainian grain transport route

Europe Materials 7 July 2022 14:50 (UTC +04:00)
Poland as an alternative Ukrainian grain transport route

Addressing an urgent need to support exports of Ukrainian grain, Poland has been actively unblocking all existing bottlenecks and using its logistics capabilities to maximise transportation of Ukrainian agricultural commodities through European routes and ports. Even though the alternative transport corridors for Ukrainian grain will never absorb the volumes of grain shipped through Ukrainian ports before, they could support exports in the short term and build a reliable and diversified logistics system for the long term.

So far, railway transportation through the territory of Poland and shipments from Polish ports seem to be the most promising and efficient solution, with annual capacity of railway corridors used for transporting Ukrainian grains estimated at around 15 million tons, and spare handling capacities of Polish ports estimated at around 3.8 million tons (based on 2021 data). Road transportation is considered as a supplementary to rail and maritime transport due to its lower efficiency. Coupled with transport capabilities of Romania (estimated at 1 million tons/month) and Slovakia (estimated at 0.5 million tons/month), the Polish transit routes should meet monthly export needs of Ukraine estimated at around 3 million tons.

On 23 April 2022 the prime ministers of Poland and Ukraine signed the Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen bilateral cooperation in the railway sector. The MoU envisages establishment of a logistic joint venture which will significantly boost rail transport of Ukrainian exports both to the EU and the global markets via Europe. Polish and Ukrainian railway companies (PKP S.A. and Ukrzaliznytsia) are in the final stage of talks on establishment of the joint company. Poland and Ukraine already reached additional bilateral agreements concerning the capacity of Polish seaports. On 16 May 2022, Ministers of Agriculture of Poland and Ukraine signed a memorandum of cooperation on improving the logistics of agricultural exports from Ukraine through Poland. On 14 June 2022, the transit of Ukrainian grains through Poland was further discussed between ministers of infrastructure and agriculture of Poland and Ukraine.

Ukraine-Poland border crossings for cargo

Total capacity of the railway border crossings between UA and PL allows to export approximately 50 thousand tons daily, of which only 20 thousand is currently being utilized. Ukrainian exports of commodities via rail are carried out through border checkpoints in:

  • Dorohusk-Jagodzin (PKP CARGO S.A),
  • Medyka-Mościska (PKP CARGO S.A),
  • Werchrata- Rawa Ruska (PKP CARGO S.A),
  • Hrubieszów-Izow (PKP LHS sp. z o.o.) – target capacity: 12 trains daily (once renovation works are completed on the Ukrainian side).

Additionally, food commodities can enter the European Union by trucks through the following road border crossings points:

  • Budomierz-Hruszów
  • Dołhobyczów-Uhrynów
  • Dorohusk-Jagodzin
  • Hrebenne-Rawa Ruska
  • Korczowa-Krakowiec
  • Krościenko-Smolnica
  • Medyka-Szeginie
  • Zosin-Uściług

To facilitate faster clearance of grain shipments entering the EU from Ukraine by trucks, an additional checkpoint has been established at the border crossing in Korczowa. Based on an agreement between relevant Polish and Ukrainian authorities, additional 6 gates for cargo clearance have been opened (bringing the total to 11 gates), which should double the capacity of freight clearance. Additionally, the border crossing in Dorohusk-Jagodzin has been dedicated for freight traffic only and passenger traffic will be redirected to the crossings in Zosin and Dołhobyczów.

The total capacity of Polish ports to handle grain shipments are estimated at around 12-13 million tons annually. Based on 2021 data, the spare capacities to handle Ukrainian grain is estimated at around 3.8 million tons. Further increase of capacity would require additional investments. Poland has four major ports that can handle transport of exported Ukrainian commodities: Gdynia, Gdańsk, Szczecin and Świnoujście. In order to use Polish ports for exporting Ukrainians grains, the commodity must be first delivered to the ports (either by rail or by trucks) and contracts should be signed between ports and Ukrainian exporters or companies responsible for shipping the grains from Ukraine.

The bottlenecks

The main obstacles to overcome in the exports of Ukrainian grains through Poland are red tape, technical infrastructure, and communication and information flow. While most problems, including border controls and agri-food inspections have been resolved smoothly, the infrastructural challenges remain.

Measures taken to facilitate faster border controls:

  • Starting from 31 May 2022, the veterinary control of feed material of plant origin in transit from UA to third countries was suspended until further notice.
  • Additional funds were allocated to increase the number of veterinary inspectors at the border by 17 persons, manning the busiest border checkpoints 24/7. Moreover, working hours of inspectors carrying out controls of the commercial quality of agricultural and food products have been extended in selected border control posts. Inspections of agricultural and food products of commercial quality can be carried out at the place of destination in Poland, instead of having to undergo the procedure at the border, resulting in a streamlined border check process.
  • The rate of administrative checks of feed material of plant origin imported from UA to the EU was lowered to an absolute minimum. It must be underlined that grain imports to the EU are exempt from phytosanitary inspections.

The remaining technical infrastructural challenges include:

  • Different railway rolling stock standards (1520 vs 1435 mm). This means that Ukrainian wagons cannot be used in most EU Member States. This requires either the change of bogies for wagons or reloading of the grain from wagons on broad gauge to wagons on the European standard gauge. The second option is less effective, more costly and time-consuming. Hence, the Polish railways are concentrating on facilitating the use of the first option by addressing the challenges related for example to the width of the Ukrainian wagons and lack of their compliance with rail and port infrastructure in Poland.
  • Shortages of grain hoppers (1435 mm) in Europe. Ukraine has at its disposal approximately 20,000 wagons for wide gauge rail (previously used to transport grain within the territory of Ukraine and to the ports on Black and Azov Seas) that cannot be used on the EU standard gauge. At present, the carriers rely mostly on Polish and Ukrainian grain hoppers and try to explore non-conventional techniques of grain transport, e.g. in containers or coal wagons under tarpaulins. On average, 1 train is composed of 21 wagons, and can carry circa 1,900 tons of grain. Therefore, to export 1.5 million tons of grain (the maximum current monthly capacity of the Polish railways), between 600-800 trains monthly, and more than 20 trains daily (400 wagons) are needed.
  • Storage and transshipment infrastructure. The transshipment - from wagons on the broad gauge to wagons on the European standard gauge - should take place at logistics sites near the border. The logistics centres have to increase their capacities to handle much larger volumes of cargo.


Polish transport routes offer the best alternative to maritime transport to support Ukraine in transporting its grains to their final buyers. We stand ready to build a reliable and sustainable transport corridor for Ukrainian food commodities and we are on track to achieve this goal, yet substantial external financial support is needed to fully utilize the existing mid-term and long-term potential.