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Inside Ukraine as war rages

Ukraine’s grain ports are closed; Russia leaves its open.

As President Biden and the NATO allies respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with sanctions against the Kremlin, residents in Ukraine are trying to stay calm. 

Inside the lines of war, things are changing by the minute.

Ukrainian officials have now announced a curfew for its capital of Kyiv that goes into effect from 10 p.m. until 7 a.m.

“The situation is so complicated that nothing is certain. Everything may change in just few moments,” said Iurii Mykhailov, a Successful Farming contributor from Kyiv.

Mykhailov claims that as of Thursday afternoon, the Russians have failed.

“So, what is known for the moment. The Russian blitzkrieg had failed. (Its) idea was to grab principle cities at the first attack. It failed,” Mykhailov told Successful Farming in an email Thursday.

The Russians have grabbed the Crimean canal that supplied Crimea with the fresh water and also the Kahovkka hydroelectricity plant, Mykhailov says.

The Black Sea ports in Ukraine are shut down. 

“There is no shipping to/from Ukraine,” Mykhailov reports.

Some European Union governments are calling for the shutdown of the Bosporus Strait, located on the southwest edge of the Black Sea. 

“This is a very good idea if only the vessels to/from Ukraine, NATO, Romania, and Bulgaria will be allowed to move,” Mykhailov says.

READ MORE: Commodity supplies at risk as Russia invades Ukraine

Planting season

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine in its infancy, it is too early to say anything about Ukraine’s corn planting season that is expected to begin in two weeks.

“While corn planting may be uncertain, certainly there is going to be some spring season in the Western Ukraine, but this region is mainly for fruits, vegetables (especially greenhouse grown),” the Ukrainian says.

READ MORE: High input costs dampen U.S. corn plantings

Kyiv environment

At the moment in Kyiv there is no panic, Mykhailov says. The public transportation works as usual (and for free).

“The big supermarkets claim that there is no lack of food. There are no cut-offs of utilities, like electricity, tap water, or natural gas,” Mykhailov says.

He added, “There are reports that (petrol) stations are rationing the fuel for private cars, like 5 gallons per car.”

Ukraine’s banking system is operational. 

“Though in the morning there were lines (not big enough) to withdraw cash from ATM, now there is no lines visible (I am not sure why it is, i.e., people have calmed down some or there is no cash in the ATM). Also there were some lines to grocery and drug stores in the morning. Now there is no lines at all,” Mykhailov says.

A sad day

Meanwhile, in Russia, Andrey Sizov, The Sizov Report’s managing editor, says it’s a very sad day for both countries.

“I have friends in both countries,” the Russian-based market analyst says.

World commodities traders are watching to see how the war impacts the grain markets.

Sizov says that global grain prices could hit $400/mt on the catastrophe in the Black Sea.

The grain market is rallying after Russian troops invaded Ukraine. In Chicago, the Board of Trade’s wheat futures market jumped 50¢ per bushel, hitting its daily trading limit Thursday.

The trade is weighing the stoppage of world wheat exports, due to the war between the two large exporters of the grain.

SovEcon, Sizov’s private analyst firm, estimates that Ukraine has around 6 mmt of wheat left to export from the 20/21 season and 13-14 mmt of corn. Russia has around 7-7.5 mmt of wheat to export from the 20/21 and 1-2 mmt of corn.

Navigation has stopped in the Azov Sea, where there are two minor Ukrainian ports (2-3 mmt annual exports) and many Russian ports (12-15 mmt of exports), according to Sizov’s report.

On Thursday, while Ukraine shut down some of its terminals, Russian Black Sea terminals are operating at the moment, Sizov says.

“In the worst-case scenario, if a substantial share of the Russian and Ukrainian grain won’t be able to reach the global market, global milling wheat prices could exceed $400/mt while corn prices could approach that level,” Sizov says.

The developments between the two war-torn countries are tenuous. Who really knows what the night skies will bring.

“It is very difficult to assess the information,” Mykhailov says. "There are a lot of fake (reports) – à la guerre comme à la guerre (which translates to) all is fair in love and war.”

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