Even with all the hostilities going on around him, Ukrainian farmer Serhiy Ivaschuk has despatched his tractors and machinery to work in the fields to get this year’s crops planted.
While the Russian invasion of Ukraine is destined to affect food security around the world, Ukraine farmers are making a gallant effort to get as many crops planted as they can, where they can.
The Ukraine Ministry of Agriculture has said the projected hectares for the main spring crops in territory controlled by Ukraine is 5.9 million hectares, which is 1.7 million hectares less than last year.
With this in mind Serhiy and his team and forging ahead with their own crops, which also includes growing feed for his 1,400 dairy cows.
Serhiy, whose farm is called Perlyna Podillya Ltd, said: “Our farm runs both livestock and arable enterprises. We operate 6,800 hectares of arable land and keep 1,400 dairy cows.
“Mostly we grow wheat, corn, sunflowers, barley, soya, rapeseed, sugar beet, potatoes and fodder crops. Around 25% of our growing area is used to grow wheat and then corn, sunflowers and rapeseed are the next most popular. Last year we were able to harvest 7.4 tonnes of wheat per hectare.”
Armed with whatever agricultural inputs he has available on the farm, Serhiy has already started land preparation and planting.
He said: “This year we are trying to keep the same sowing structure as last year. However, it’s hard to predict that for now. We’ve started sowing with the available agri inputs of seeds and fertiliser we have on the farm. If we don’t get more inputs, then the sowing structure will be changed.
“This year we have to make every effort to grow as much a harvest as possible. As most farmers are unable to plant this year, the regions with no active hostilities are hugely responsible for our country’s food security,” he said.
Although there are no hostilities in the immediate region where Serhiy’s farm is based, the airstrikes and missile attacks on neighbouring Lviv and Zhytomyr regions have become more frequent.
Serhiy said: “We are already working in the fields feeding spring-time crops and preparing the soil for planting others. The fieldwork has slowed down a little bit because some of our workers have been mobilised to join the army or territorial defence forces. Some of our farm vehicles have also been given to the Ukrainian army to use.”
Diesel availability is one of the more concerning issues Ukraine farmers are facing during this planting season and further into harvesting.
Ukraine normally imports around 60% of it’s diesel requirements from Russia and Belarus and a further 25% by sea through the ports. However, as these supply lines are defunct, and Ukraine only produces 15% of its own diesel, then it has to buy from European countries next to it.
The normal requirement to June is 250,000 tonnes of diesel but there are only an estimated 50,000 tonnes in Ukraine. This figure may even be less now as some stocks have recently been blown up by the Russians.
Regarding his own situation, Serhiy said: “Our own agri inputs are more or less sufficient for now and the diesel stocks should be enough for the sowing.
The longer there is no peace in Ukraine, the less food the world market will receive from Ukraine
“We may run short of seeds, fertilisers and crop protection products. Before the war started we had made several pre-payments for supplies from our credit lines.
“However, the logistics and supply chains are broken now, so our suppliers can’t provide us with the inputs. Anyway, we will be sowing with what we have now,” he added.
Ukraine has around 35 million tonnes of grains and oilseeds in storage from last year and needs 7 million tonnes of that for domestic consumption. The remainder that is destined for world markets cannot be sold due to the Russians cutting off export ports.
Serhiy said: “We have a lot of corn and some wheat in storage to sell. As our farm is located far away from the seaports, we usually export through the Polish border by railway.
“Today there are logistic restrictions and we can’t use the railway for this. But exports now would help us to get working capital for future guarantees.
“We use wheat stocks for the internal needs and supply to the regions where hostilities take place and there is also a need to support the army and people. Our farm work now concentrates on ensuring food security of the country,” he said.
Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the recent G7 summit that a global food crisis could come as a result of the war.
President Zelenskyy said: “There has been a global catastrophe. Russia has destroyed the global security architecture and dealt a powerful blow to international relations. But this is just the beginning. This war could be followed by a global food crisis.
“The longer there is no peace in Ukraine, the less food the world market will receive from Ukraine. In many countries in Asia, Africa and Europe, there may even be extraordinary problems with access to basic products and food prices,” he said.