ISTANBUL/KYIV: The ship Brave Commander has left the Ukrainian port of Pivdennyi, carrying the first cargo of humanitarian food aid bound for Africa from Ukraine since Russia's invasion, Refinitiv Eikon data showed on Tuesday.

Ukraine's grain exports have slumped since the start of the war because of the closure of its Black Sea ports, a crucial conduit for shipments, which drove up global food prices and sparked fears of shortages in Africa and the Middle East.

But three Black Sea ports were unblocked last month under a deal between Moscow and Kyiv, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, that made it possible to send hundreds of thousands of tonnes of Ukrainian grain to buyers.

The Brave Commander, with 23,000 tonnes of wheat aboard, left for the African port of Djibouti with supplies destined for consumers in Ethiopia, Ukraine's infrastructure ministry said.

"The ministry and the United Nations are working on ways to increase food supplies for the socially vulnerable sections of the African population," it said in a statement.

Seventeen ships have already left Ukrainian ports with more than 475,000 tonnes of agricultural products on board, it added.

Earlier, a joint co-ordination centre set up by Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Nations, said it had approved the departure of the Brave Commander. Moscow calls its action in Ukraine a "special military operation". (Reporting by Daren Butler in Istanbul and Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)