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With the war, the grain harvest in Ukraine risks being halved

Devastated or bombed fields, workers gone to fight, ruined logistics: the Russian invasion risks halving the cereal harvest in Ukraine, crucial for world food, warned the Ukrainian Minister of Agriculture in an interview with the AFP.

If Ukraine harvested 106 million tons of grain last year, an absolute record, this year the figure will be “from 25% to 50%” lower, predicts Minister Mykola Solsky in this written interview. “And again, that’s an optimistic prognosis. »

Part of the regions, especially in the fertile south (Kherson, Zaporozhye, Odessa, etc.) are plagued by hostilities and inaccessible. Ukrainians “will sow wherever possible” but only “50% to 75% of the territories” will be able to be exploited, underlines Mr. Solsky.

Another problem: many farmers have “joined the army or territorial defence” creating a labor shortage, notes Mr. Solsky, whose ministry is trying to set up a “system of provisional exemptions” allowing the workers not to be mobilized.

Despite the war, Ukrainians have already started sowing wheat, barley, rapeseed, oats, sunflowers and soybeans, but the changing situation on the ground is forcing farms and authorities to improvise. “It is not known what crops will be planted. (…) Each farmer or farm will make his decision based on the availability of seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and fuel »explains the minister.

Ukraine has enough reserves to feed its own population, which before the war amounted to about 40 million people.

But exports, crucial both for the country’s income and for global food, are likely to take a hit. Ukraine exported before the war 4.5 million tons of agricultural production per month via its ports, but “their blockade has de facto stopped our exports”, deplores the minister. The government “working to increase capacity” of export, in particular with the help of the railways, assures the person in charge. Corn “for obvious reasons, we are not going to do this publicly”he said.

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