Planting progress and other impacts from the war in Ukraine

As the war in Ukraine enters another week of conflict between Ukraine and Russia, Antonina Broyaka, an economics associate professor Ukraine’s Vinnytsia National Agrarian University, recently shared some insights into the current atmosphere in Ukraine and the planting progress for the fall crops.

Broyaka said much of the southeastern part of the country is occupied by Russian troops and the Russian forces are not allowing the removal of civilians.

“As a result of hostilities in Ukraine, an area of 20,392,371 (acres) was mined, which is 13.6% of the territory of Ukraine,” Broyaka said. “Potentially dangerous areas to be surveyed are 32,623,593.8 acres.”

Additionally, she said 48,511 explosive items have been neutralized as of April 26, including 1,950 bombs. Broyaka said even if the war ended today, it would take years to clean up Ukraine. Exporting grain and importing supplies necessary to plant and harvest the next crop is a major concern for many farmers. Broyaka said in 2020 and 2021, Ukraine exported 44.9 million tons of grains, legumes and other products, and although exporting is currently halted in Ukraine, there are plans in place to export via train.

“Currently the railway is the main grain transportation means, and the western border has been the main route for grain to foreign markets,” Broyaka said. “The Ukrainian Railway can transship 1 million tons of grain per month at the western border crossings. The company is working on expanding the capacity to 5 million tons. The Ukrainian Railway offers exporters to reload grain at 13 terminals.”

Additionally, she said Ukraine keeps working on reorientation of exports to rail and road routes with the help of neighboring countries like Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland, to build a grain bridge for about 20,000 trains. Broyaka said the government has worked to cut red tape for farmers during the war. During martial law, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine has abolished seed certification procedures, simplified the labeling of imported food and feed, removed bureaucratic barriers to the export and licensing of permitted groups of goods, eased registration of agricultural machinery and equipment and has made a number of decisions that facilitate the access of agricultural producers to fuel, pesticides and agrochemicals.

According to Broyaka, as of April 26, the direct losses of the Ukrainian economy from the Russian invasion reached $88 billion and the total direct and indirect losses have been tallied up to a whopping $565 billion. Furthermore, the Ukrainian economy loses about $170 million every day due to the port blockade.

Planting and safety of farmers

Broyaka said given the current situation in Ukraine, in 2022, about 14.4 million hectares could be sown—that is about 85% of the total sown area in 2021.

“It will be impossible to sow the full area due to the destruction of agricultural materials, theft of machinery by Russian occupiers, mines and shells on fields and roads, lack of employees and finances to perform the work,” she said.

As of April 22, Ukraine planted spring crops throughout 17.9% of the previous forecast, including 380,700 acres. She said so far 85% of the spring wheat, 60% of the spring barley, 71.6% of the oats, 44.3% of the peas, 5.9% of the corn, 1.2% of the buckwheat, 6.1% of the millet, 13.8% of the sunflower seed, 4.8% of the soybeans, 49.4% of the spring rapeseed and 69.2% of the sugar beets have been planted. Additionally, several crops will have significant changes in acres planted. Spring barley will be down 32%, corn will be down 31% and sunflower down 28% compared to 2021. However, soybeans are expected to increase 28%. Although most of the fighting has been in urban areas and cities, agricultural areas are definitely at risk.

“An analysis of the elevators shows that about 39% of storage facilities are located in dangerous and relatively safe regions and 16% are in the most dangerous regions,” Broyaka said. “According to estimates, as of March 1, the total availability of grain was 28.6 million tons, of which 12.51 million tons in regions with active hostilities.”

She said farmers in unoccupied regions are mostly safe, although there is always fear of missile attacks. Farmers in occupied areas are in danger and many of them have been forced to work for Russia and the Russian troops have seized their grain and other food products.

“They don’t have a choice because they are afraid for their lives,” Broyaka explained. “Farmers in the unoccupied parts of Ukraine still have some troubles with delivering fertilizer, exporting grain.”

She also discussed the labor shortage issues that are plaguing farms in Ukraine. Many laborers joined the army to fight Russia or fled the country entirely before Russia got a foothold, so farm workers are limited. Furthermore, fuel availability is getting worse. Broyaka said the local government asked all fuel operators to keep prices low. However, she said agriculture is a priority for the government and they will make sure fuel is available to sow crops.

Broyaka provided the update for the Ukraine-Russia Conflict: Agricultural Ramifications program for a recent Kansas State University Agricultural Economics’ webinar.

Lacey Vilhauer can be reached at 620-227-1871 or [email protected].

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