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Russian invasion continues to take its toll on all ag sectors in Ukraine

Only 10% of prewar export capacity for grain is available due to damaged, blocked ports.

Because the Ukrainian ports are being blocked by Russia, only a half million tons of grain can be exported by the country per month, according to Taras Vysotsky, Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Agrarian Policy. This constitutes only 10% of the prewar export capacity. 

At the moment three Ukrainian ports are under the Russian control, namely Mariupil, Berdiansk, and Kherson. The Mykolaiv port was severely damaged. There remain only two undamaged ports: Odessa and Chornomorsk near Odessa. The sea routes to/from Ukraine have been mined and were completely blocked.

While exporting by railroad is an option, the main problem is the difference in the track gauge from country to country. Ukraine uses 1520-mm track gauge while European countries use 1435-mm gauge, so the wheel set on each wagon must be changed when crossing the border either way. This operation is very time-consuming.

Both Traditional, Organic Farming Suffer

Due to Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine, the Ministry of Agrarian Policy expects the sown area of spring crops will decrease by 20.5% or 3.5 million hectares in 2022 (13.44 million hectares in 2022 from 16.92 million hectares in 2021).

Minister of Agrarian Policy Mykola Solsky advised agricultural producers to grow high-margin oilseeds (e.g., sunflower, rapeseed, and soybeans) because their logistics are significantly simpler.

Since the beginning of the large-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, the organic sector, like the entire agricultural industry, has been suffering from aggression.

Currently, the demand for organic products is very low, as there is a critical need to provide Ukrainians with basic foodstuffs. Supply chains also have been broken. More than 10 million citizens migrated to more safe regions, with about 4 million citizens crossing the border. Another factor is the decreased purchasing power of consumers due to lost income or inflation. 

In 2020, there were 462,225,000 hectares of organic land in Ukraine. Much of the land under organic production is in areas where there are currently hostilities or occupation. For example, the Kherson region (about 81.5 thousand hectares), which is Ukraine’s largest organic agricultural producer, is almost completely occupied by Russian troops. 

Other organic production areas that are not accessible include:

  • Zaporizhzhia region  – about 44.5 thousand hectares
  • Kharkiv region  – about 4,000 hectares
  • Chernihiv region  – about 10,000 hectares

This means access to at least 30% of the organic land is impossible. Some 30% of operators report that they have stopped their business; another 15% are on the verge of stopping; 32% operate part-time; and only 7% are operating as before. About 15% of operators are delivering their organic products for free to support the Ukrainian army and population, and some organic farmers sell organic food at inorganic prices (without a premium).

Impact on Livestock Industry

Because some dairy processing plants in the regions close to hostilities or under occupation are closed, farmers can sell only raw milk to nearby residents. Some farmers have had to slaughter animals due to lack of feed.

The Russian troops killed all cattle belonging to the Agromol Company that is located near city of Kharkiv. This wasn’t done because the troops were hungry but rather to cause maximum damage to the Ukrainian agriculture.

17% of Grocery Stores Closed, Destroyed

Since the invasion on February 24, 580 grocery stores (17% of the total amount) have been closed or destroyed all over the country. Before the war, grocery stores received inventory from their distribution centers served by suppliers. Now all chains in this logistic have been destroyed. Russians destroyed (and continue to) roads, bridges, storage facilities, and processing plants. Suppliers also face fuel shortages.

The biggest problems are ruined roads and the safety of trucks. It is also impossible to supply food to the occupied or surrounded cities. Some producers and processing plants offer discounts for retailers who take goods from them using their own transport.

As of April 1, the ban on selling alcohol was lifted in Kyiv. Authorities explain that this measure is needed to replenish the state and local budgets. The stores, restaurants, cafes, etc. are allowed to sell alcohol from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Russian troops are now targeting oil depots and oil refineries to disrupt supply of fuel to the Ukrainian army and farmers. The government and businesses are establishing supply chains from abroad but, again, the main obstacle is the difference in the railway gauges.

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