Conflicts & War

Ukraine retains agriculture powerhouse claim despite war

By Rostyslav Averchuk

Lviv, Ukraine, Jan 5 (EFE).- Ukraine’s agricultural sector remains a world leader despite the Russian invasion and the challenges brought by partial occupation, logistical issues and mine contamination.

The effects of Russia’s full-scale war on Ukraine’s agriculture have been profound and are likely to last for years to come, Pavlo Koval, director of Ukrainian Agrarian Confederation, told Efe.

The eruption of the war has “clipped the wings” of an industry that had been rapidly developing in the last five to seven years with a record 106 million tonnes of crops and oil cultures harvested in 2021.

One year later, up to 20% of all agricultural land is under Russian occupation, in need of being demined or recultivated due to physical damage.

“Some of the most developed agricultural areas have suffered the most, such as the north of Luhansk region or the Zaporizhzhia region, with the largest winter wheat production in Ukraine located there,” said Koval.

Harvesting has become risky amid numerous cases of agricultural equipment being blown up on the mined crop fields have been reported. Thousands of agricultural specialists have joined the Ukrainian army.

The estimated costs of the physical damage suffered by Ukrainian agriculture range from $9 to 40 billion, while profit and market losses are hard to quantify.

According to Koval, Ukrainian farmers have found themselves pinched between falling domestic revenues and rising running costs.

“For instance, a tonne of carbamide fertilizer now costs 32,000 hryvnias (roughly $870), which is prohibitively high for many agrarians. This means the productivity of the soil is going to fall in the medium-term.”

Farmers are forced to make drastic decisions regarding which crops to switch to, depending on their price stability and logistics. Up to 30% of corn remains on the fields due to a lack of economic sense in collecting it, while soybeans may become a more popular choice among farmers.

Logistical costs have risen dramatically as the cost of delivering a tonne of crops from central Ukraine to the Romanian port of Constanza has risen to about $180 from $30. Efforts have been made to facilitate exports both through the Danube ports, where they have hit 2.5 million tonnes per month, and across the western border with the European Union.

However, Black Sea ports remain the principal export route for Ukraine.

Koval said: “16.5 million tonnes of agricultural products have been exported within the UN-backed grain initiative, while for instance, three Polish ports can only export 8 million tonnes of goods annually.”

The expert also noted that the sector continues to play an important social role, as the overwhelming number of producers have managed to pay rent to the owners of land, many of which reside in the countryside.

Despite the blow, Ukraine has retained its position among the agricultural powerhouses of the world. For instance, with more than 20 million tonnes of wheat harvested in 2022, it currently occupies the ninth position in the ranking of biggest producers, ahead of Argentina and Turkey.

“While the number one priority for Ukraine is to ensure its population can afford to buy enough food, its role as a ‘bread basket’ is also very important as millions in the whole world depend on steady food supplies from Ukraine,” Koval said.EFE


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