European leaders have stepped up diplomatic efforts to loosen Russia’s hold on Ukraine’s grain supplies as Kyiv’s prospects in the eastern Donbas region worsen and the risk of a global food crisis mounts.

German chancellor Olaf Scholz and French president Emmanuel Macron discussed the situation with Vladimir Putin in a phone call on Saturday. Putin told them Moscow was willing to find ways to unblock grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports and could increase its own fertilizer and agriculture exports if relevant sanctions are lifted.

Their conversation came two days after Italian prime minister Mario Draghi broached the issue with the Russian president in a bid to ease the global food crisis that threatens to inflict hardship in emerging market economies.

Ukraine and some of its western allies have accused Russia of blockading the port of Odesa, holding up the export of large shipments of grain.

Putin, Scholz and Macron discussed whether a negotiated solution could be found to open Odesa to allow grain exports to leave Ukraine, according to an Elysée briefing after the call. The French and German leaders “noted the Russian president’s promise to allow ships to access the port to export grain without it being used militarily by Russia — if the port was demined in advance”, according to the briefing.

Berlin said the call lasted 80 minutes and was “devoted to Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine and efforts to end it”.

The risk of a global food crisis has been intensifying since Putin launched his all-out invasion of Ukraine, a major grain producer and exporter, on February

Russian fertilizer and agricultural exports have also been disrupted, for which Moscow blames western sanctions.

Putin told Macron and Scholz that Russia “is ready to contribute to finding options for unimpeded grain exports”, according to a summary of his words released by the Kremlin in a statement.

“Increased supplies of Russian fertilisers and agricultural products, which, of course, will require the lifting of relevant sanctions, will also help to ease tensions on the global food market,” the Kremlin reported Putin as saying.