Reports from Ukraine

By Larysa Guk

President, Union of Agrarian Journalists of Ukraine

 

«Good evening We are from Ukraine».

This is the popular greeting in Ukraine now.

 

Dear ladies and gentlemen!

Thank you for the opportunity to talk about the war in our country.

My name is Larysa Guk and I’m from Ukraine.

I am editor in chief in Agro Perspectiva magazine.

I am president of the Union of Agrarian Journalists of Ukraine.

I do not speak English fluently.

 

Short report

Yesterday. Warm summer Sundays’ morning in Kyiv.

2 rockets from Belarus. One family. 6-years old girl injured, lost her father. Today is quiet in Kyiv, but not quiet in other cities.
Bombs fell on Kremenchuk (Poltava region). 20 people died.

 

After February 24, the world finally noticed the war that has been continued in Ukraine for more than eight years.

I am tired.

I am scared.

I will try be calm and trust the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

I do not want to speak about war.

I want to speak about bread.

 

Short report about media

Many agricultural Ukrainian media stoped working.

Now magazines and web portal work again, but we all changed.

Advertisers stopped almost all projects.

A lot of people lost their jobs.

Some journalists were drafted to the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Some journalists become volunteers.

This is the situation in agriculture media now.

 

Ukrainian farmers need support!

Ukraine began harvesting grain.

In general, the forecast for the production of major crops is as follows:

Wheat – 18-20 MMT

Corn – 20-24 MMT

Barley – 5 MMT

Low prices on the wheat – it is the biggest problem now. The logistic costs are higher than the grain prices.

 

Purchase prices of exporters for grain on CPT/DAP terms, USD/tonna for deliveries in June/July

Item
23/06/2022
Wheat 12,5%295
Wheat 11,5%290
Feed wheat270
Feed barley215
Corn225

In general, the market is under pressure from the upcoming harvest of the new crop. Demand for wheat from Ukraine continues to decline due to the upcoming harvest and the availability of stocks of old grain from farmers.

Western European millers continue to maintain a fairly good demand for high-quality wheat, but at the same time, Ukrainian farmers are not ready to sell stocks of the old crop at current prices in the hope of rising prices.

 

Ukrainian farmers are hostages of the war.

There is a danger that farmers will simply refuse to sow winter wheat this fall.

Farmers are afraid of uncertainty.

Nobody knows when the war will end.

Nobody knows when the ports will be unlocked.

No one knows what the price of wheat will be and how much the fertilizers will cost.

 

Media

Ukrainian journalists are open to answer your questions to help you prepare materials about the life and work of Ukrainian growers, processors and traders under the war conditions.

To provide to the world the truth about the war in Ukraine, about the threats of Russian aggression especially for farmers is an important task of journalists. We count on the cooperation with you.

The issue of ending the war and stopping military aggression from the Russian Federation is a top priority for Ukraine.

Farmers just want to grow bread and feed people.

We know that people outside Ukraine are tired of news about war but it is important for us journalists abroad continue to cover stories about Ukraine.

Thank you.

By Iuri Mykhailov

Dear hosts, colleagues and friends. For those who see me for the first time I want to introduce myself.

My name is Iurii Mykhailov. I am the agricultural journalist with 28 years’ experience.

From the first day of the war and till now I have been staying in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine.

First of all I want to express the deepest gratitude to all people around the world for their support of and aid to our country. I also want to thank all my friends and colleagues from the IFAJ community who personally contacted me with their generous offers of providing me a personal shelter or who offered to provide a humanitarian aid to our people.

And I want to express the special thanks and gratitude to the Danish Guild who provided the support for Ms. Larysa Guk and me for coming here and participate in this year’s IFAJ Congress in Denmark.

But before going to describe the main challenge to the Ukrainian agriculture I would like to explain why Russia attacked Ukraine.

Before 1721 present-day Russia was called the Muscovite kingdom. After the inclusion of a number of lands of the former Kyivan Rus into the Muscovite kingdom its king Peter I changed the name of the Muscovite kingdom to the Russian Empire. Since then the name Russia in various forms has been used. The present official name of Russia is the Russian Federation.

Russia considers itself as the legitimate heir of Kyivan Rus on the claim that officially Moscow was founded in 1147 by the contender for the Kyiv throne – prince Yuri Dolgorukiy. He was called Dolgorukiy (or the Long Arm meaning “far-reaching”) because he was only the sixth son of the reigning Kyiv prince Vladimir Monomakh. At the age of 59 he nevertheless became the prince of Kyiv. His tomb is in Kyiv.

Kyiv is the subject of the Moscow’s crave because it is in Kyiv that the prince Vladimir the Great baptized his kingdom into the Orthodox Christianity.

So without Kyiv Russia feels itself as flawed or even fake. This means that Russia is the existential threat to Ukraine.

The idea that there may be no Russia without Ukraine initially was expressed by the Bolsheviks’ leader Vladimir Lenin in 1918, thus substantiating the Russian invasion of Ukraine that year, which shortly before that gained independence as a result of the Russian October Revolution of 1917.

But at that time, the need for the occupation of Ukraine was necessitated by the Russia’s economic dependence on the industrial and agricultural potential of Ukraine.

Nowadays, the desire to subjugate Ukraine is dictated first of all by Putin’s geopolitical fantasies, although the ability to control and manage the 40 million population of Ukraine with the possibility of transferring some of it to the Far East is also the agenda in modern Russia. The territory from the Baltic Sea to the Ural Mountains, that is the European part of Russia, is home to 120 million people while throughout the entire territory from the Urals to Kamchatka, it is a home to only 20 million.

Putin considers the collapse of the Soviet Union as the biggest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century while ignoring two very devastating world wars: the WWI and the WWII.

Therefore, in his head is rooted the idee fix of restoring Russian Empire within its borders as of 1914, that is, including Poland, Finland, the Baltic states as well as all the republics that seceded from the USSR after its collapse in 1990, including Ukraine. This idee fix he at last openly expressed at the recent so called International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg when he compared himself to the Emperor Peter I and claimed that all territories of the former Russian Empire must again become the part of Russia.

That is why Baltic States and countries of the Central Europe after obtaining the independence in 1991 immediately joined the NATO as a way to defend themselves from Russian aggression.

So why Ukraine? As the one character in the Italian writer Umberto Eco’s famous book “The Name Of The Rose” said “when your true enemies are too strong, you have to choose weaker enemies”.

Putin felt that members of NATO, Sweden and Finland, as EU members, are too strong for him. And that is why he had chosen to invade Ukraine.

Putin wants to completely demolish Ukraine as a nation, to erase anything that even remotely remind of Ukraine, like our culture, language, history, our identity and so on.

One of the main Putin’s reasons to invade Ukraine in addition to grab Kyiv as “mother of all Rus cities” was the desire to seize the Kherson region to resume the supply of fresh water to the annexed Crimea.

The other goal was the occupation of the strategic mining, industrial and energy producing regions in the East and Central Ukraine such as Kharkiv, Dnipro, Zaporozhzhia, Kryvyi Rih and Mariupil.

Also Putin’s goal was the complete control of the natural gas transportation system by which Russian natural gas is pumped to the Central Europe through the Ukrainian territory.

To accelerate the surrender of Ukraine Putin wanted to capture or at least block all the South coast of Ukraine including the strategic ports on the Black sea thus effectively to cutoff Ukraine from the international trade.

To implement Putin’s crazy plans about 200,000 Russian troops invaded Ukraine on February, 24. The so called “special military operation” was planned to be completed within a week.

That is why such countries as Sweden and Finland which for a long time maintained their neutral status applied for the NATO membership after Russia invaded Ukraine.

So what Russia has achieved four months after the invasion of Ukraine?

  • Russia has managed to seize only Kherson region. And though the North-Crimean canal was seized the water flow to the Crimea has not been resumed, at least for now. There must be done a deep overhaul to the Canal to make it operational again.
  • All Ukrainian sea ports are completely blocked; some of them are heavily damaged.
  • Of the four Ukrainian nuclear power plants only one in Zaporizhzhia region was captured.
  • About one million Ukrainian citizens including children were forcibly moved against their will and moved to Russia mainly to Siberia and the Far East. Ukrainian children forcibly moved to Russia face the adoption by Russians.

At the same time Russia has already lost thirty five thousand troops killed and likely suffered three times more irreplaceable casualties. Twelve Russian generals and hundreds of high-rank officers were killed. Russia lost thousands of tanks and heavy armored vehicles, more than two hundred planes, more than two hundred helicopters, tens of anti-aircraft systems, the flagship of its Black sea fleet and some other ships, thousands of trucks and so on. Russia as a state, thousands of Russian top officials, companies and businessmen, banks, media and propagandists are under the sanctions. If the war continues Russia’s economy inevitably will collapse.

But Russia caused huge damages to Ukraine. Tens of thousands of our people lost their lives, a lot of critical infrastructure objects have been destroyed, and a major part of them were civilian objects like buildings, hospitals, malls, shops, theaters, silos, gas stations, electric transformers and so on.

There were ruined big numbers of bridges, roads, airports, railway stations, oil depots and oil refineries.

Russians looted farms stealing agricultural machinery, implements, spare parts, fuel, and grain and so on. That which cannot be stolen has been demolished. There were killed millions of chickens and tens thousands cows and horses.

The fulfillment of numerous business contracts has been breached that caused the domino effect throughout all global food supply chain.

According to the World Bank estimates the Ukraine’s GDP will shrink by 45 percent this year comparing to 2021. This means a sharp drop of the state budget revenue and the households’ income.

The main regions for the production of vegetables and fruits, such as Kherson, Donetsk and a part of Zaporizhzhia now are under the occupation. Thus it is possible that there will not be a sufficient supply of domestically grown vegetables and fruits this year. This will lead to high prices and a shortage of raw materials for processing.

Many agricultural fields are mined. There are numerous cases in which agricultural machinery, tractors and cars were blown when rolling the mines in the fields and on the roads. Harvesting can be dangerous, as mines can be hidden within winter crops.

Before the war Ukraine was one of the biggest producers of grain, three-quarter of which were exported. And 95 percent of Ukrainian export was by sea. Now all Ukrainian sea ports are blocked, three of them now are under Russian control, one port was heavily damaged.

At the moment the carry on stocks of grain are about 20 million tons. The expected new crop of about 65-70 million tons. Considering the available grain storage capacity of about 70 million tons there will be not enough room to store all the grain.

Thus today’s biggest challenge for Ukrainian agriculture is not how to harvest the next crop but how to export it along with the remaining stocks of grain.

Ukrainian businesses are feverishly trying to build new logistic chains using railroads. But the railroad transportation has its own restrictions. By the best scenario till the end of this year Ukraine can export only 25-30 million tons of grain out of 100 million tons available.

If the blockade of the Ukrainian ports continues then big volumes of grain and other agricultural products may not be exported and thus a big number of agricultural enterprises and farmers will not be able to sell what they have produced and will go bankrupt. This means that the next sowing season may be in jeopardy. This will have a huge negative impact on the world food supply.

Unless the war ends or the conflict is frozen there will not be any significant investments to Ukraine. However, after the end of the war, an investment boom should be expected, primarily in the restoration of infrastructure and housing.

Russia will not stop voluntarily. It can be stopped only with force. The Ukrainian people are determined to fight to death for their independence, freedom and safety. So the only way for the entire world to evade the global food crisis is to support Ukraine to beat Russia.

So a short summary.

The war in Ukraine clearly shows the extreme vulnerability of food security. It takes several forms.

First, the blockade of Ukrainian sea ports has stopped the supply of grain, vegetable oils, meat and eggs to the world markets. So inevitably this means the price surge in many countries while least developed countries face famine. This problem requires reconsideration of how food is produced and supplied.

Second, we all see that Russia uses its natural gas as a sort of weapon, threatening to cut off Europe from the natural gas any moment.

Third, the disruption of natural gas supply hurts the production of fertilizers, first of all, nitrogen fertilizers. The production of nitrogen fertilizers in Ukraine dropped fivefold. Russia and its minion, Belarus, both are the major suppliers of potassium and phosphorus fertilizers, and they both stopped their deliveries using fertilizers as yet another sort of weapon. And you all well know that fertilizers must not only be applied in necessary volumes but also they must be applied in time. The disruption of fertilizers’ supply and improper application of fertilizers mean the decrease in crop yields and thus the shortage of domestically produced food.

Fourth, the disruption with fuel supply, crude oil, petrol, diesel fuel, kerosene, heavy oil hurts the transportation of goods not only within countries but also on the global level. The lack of food delivery means hunger.

All these mean that countries must diversify their sources of food and inputs, such as oil, natural gas, fertilizers, seeds, spare parts and so on to be safe in case of any contingencies.

And one of the mandatory measures each country must implement is the optimization of a food produced domestically with possible shifting to grow new crops with greater yields or which are cheaper to grow.

I wish all of you peace, a happy life and fruitful work.

Thank you,

Photo by: Claus Haagensen

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