Will the fields of Ukraine be sown?

​In the spring, Ukraine will have its second sowing campaign in the context of a full-scale war.
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​Due to the constant shelling by the occupiers, a large area of occupied territories where farms are located, and millions of hectares of minefields, this year's spring sowing campaign is under threat.Russia's war against Ukraine has left farmers short of working capital due to unsold crops. Some farms have had grain in warehouses since 2021. The lack of funds has led to a reduction or inability to purchase fertilizers. Low prices for agricultural products and logistics problems also have a negative impact.Over the past week (January 19 – January 26, 2023), the daily number of vessel departures from Ukrainian ports has remained the lowest for almost 6 months of the corridor's operation, at 2–3 vessels per day. 70% of Ukraine's territory is covered by farmland, the largest area in Europe, but Ukraine is now the largest mined area in the world. Because of this, the Ministry of Agrarian Policy of Ukraine predicts a decrease in sown areas in the spring by at least 20% compared to 2021.

As of January 2023, 250,000 square kilometers in Ukraine are mined, which is 40% of the entire territory of the state. Over the 11 months of war, deminers have checked about 760 square kilometers of Ukraine's territory. Currently, the SES pyrotechnic units are working 24/7, some of them manually, due to the lack of necessary equipment and insufficient number of qualified specialists.Halyna Osadchuk, the head of Sokil-Agro, says that last year the farm sowed 100 hectares of wheat. This year, they plan to sow the crop only on those fields that require crop rotation.“I have bought fuel and seeds. But I haven't bought any fertilizer yet because I didn't sell last year's harvest. The price of fertilizers has risen to $937.5 per ton. For comparison, last year we bought fertilizers for $450 per ton, and in 2021, fertilizers cost $250 per ton. Wheat harvested in 2021 and 2022 was not sold due to the low price. Occasionally, we manage to sell it for $100 per ton. Therefore, this year, our farm will focus on growing sunflower and soybeans. But there will be no spring wheat and barley,” says Halyna Osadchuk.The situation is similar in the center of Ukraine. Farmers consider that the price of fertilizers does not justify the expected effect of their use.“Today, fertilizers are expensive. We saved money and fell 10-20% short of our needs. We realize that without fertilization, the harvest will be smaller. We have bought fuel and partially bought seeds, but we have booked the required amount. We will plant corn, sunflower, beets, and soybeans. But we will grow less corn, we have large leftovers. At that time, it was difficult to export the grain. We used to plant beans, but this year we won't because of low yields. But in general, we believe that we will pass the spring sowing campaign satisfactorily,” said Kees Khuzinha, member of the Ukrainian Agri Council, head of Kishenzi LLC, Cherkasy region.The situation is worst for farmers in the de-occupied regions.“I haven't bought anything for the spring sowing campaign yet. Out of 3000 hectares, 1000 hectares are mined. I filed an application for demining immediately after the de-occupation. The State Emergency Service says they will not demine soon because they do not have time. We are now communicating with the neighboring farms to demine the fields ourselves. The situation is even worse for our neighbors, all their land is “sown” with explosives. We will look for a way out on our own because today it is cheaper to buy a field than to clear it of mines. We are considering buying a drone that searches for mines or renting a special machine. Otherwise, life will not return to our villages. The shareholders are already on the verge of running out of money, and I need to clear the fields of mines and sow this year,” said Oleh Hirman, head of Yavirske private enterprise, Kharkiv region.

The most critical situation remains in the east and south of the country, particularly in the de-occupied territories of Kharkiv, Kherson, and Mykolaiv regions, where many settlements have been destroyed, and infrastructure and agricultural fields are heavily mined.According to Ukrainian farmers, if the 2023 sowing campaign does not take place in Ukraine on time and in the required volumes, farmers will not be able to export food products even at the level of 2022. This will significantly increase prices on the world market for all groups of goods, causing a shortage and a food crisis.

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