The United Nations is trying to negotiate a reopening of Ukraine’s ports to avert a potential global food crisis.

The Wall Street Journal reported that secretary general Antonio Guterres is attempting to broker a deal with Russia to restart grain exports.

Citing diplomats, the report said Gutteres is trying to involve Turkey and other nations in the talks.

Russia has closed Ukraine’s Black Sea ports as part of its invasion of Ukraine.

Guterres has asked Moscow to allow some grain shipments in return for an easing of sanctions restricting Russian and Belarusian exports of potash fertiliser.

Huge premiums would presumably be on offer for bulker owners willing to make the run into Ukraine.

But companies will be wary of the risks and aware of how quickly the situation could change.

A number of vessels and crews were stranded in Ukrainian ports when war broke out in February.

Diplomats do not yet believe Russia is seriously engaged in any negotiations.

Turkey has expressed willingness to participate in a deal, however: officials said it could help remove sea mines and manage shipping traffic.

Belarusian potash is currently banned from world markets under Western sanctions.

The war in Ukraine has also disrupted some Russian exports.

Ukraine exported 41.5m tonnes of corn and wheat in the 2020/2021 season, more than 95% of it shipped through the Black Sea.

The UN is concerned that rising prices and potential food shortages could have a devastating effect on poorer countries.

Wheat prices have been at record levels since the war began.

Guterres told reporters last week: “We need to find a way to have the food production of Ukraine and the food and fertiliser production of Russia brought back to the global markets despite the war.”

He visited Moscow, Kyiv and Ankara last month to discuss the war and food security issues.