Lack of storage and dry weather threaten Ukraine’s small farms

Melitopol Elevator grain storage. (KEYSTONE/TASS/Alexei Konovalov)

The status quo in the Black Sea threatens Ukrainian grain exports, especially small scale farmers who lack storage facilities. Dry weather and petrol shortage also worsen the situation.

Harvest has already started in the eastern part of the Odesa region, Ukraine. Farmers are cutting the barley they planted last winter — more than 1 million hectares of crops. However, not only dry weather, petrol shortage, lack of space for storage have been problematic, but the Russian attack that has paralyzed the trading ports on the Black Sea also threaten Ukrainian grain exports, that usually accounts for 10% of the world total. Only about one tenth of the amount of grain was exported from the region in February and May, whereas up to 10 million tons per month would circulate in peacetime. Part of Ukraine's crops have now to be exported by alternative means like rail, road and small rivers.

 According to the Odesa farmers, the situation is similar to 2019. The farms which received the least amount of rain will be able to break even, while the regions which received the most precipitations will be able to make more income. Meanwhile, the storage problem is getting serious. Some companies in the region do not own silos because farmers would immediately sell their crops to grain traders. However, the war destroyed this business model. Today, the large producers that also breed livestock are the ones that are holding up the best, since there are only a few of them in the whole Odesa region. 

"We managed to save all the infrastructure of the former collective and State farms, so we have enough space to store our crops.  Besides, we breed horned livestock and 40% of our grain is used for husbandry," says the head of the agricultural company "Petrodolynske", Dmytro Matulyak.

  The storage of the crops is especially critical for small farms, which lack dedicated facilities. And there are many of them in Ukraine. The war that Russia unleashed has paralyzed the Ukrainian agricultural sector: businesses are doing their best to yield grain from their fields, but wonder what to do with it.

  "Everyone is overflowing, even if the world has already shown great concern about this.  If export is a problem for us, it results in food security issues for the rest of the world. We have enough food for our country, since we produce more than we consume. But what will happen to the countries that our grain cannot reach? These are the countries in Africa, Middle East, Near East, Asia and Europe. Right now, the world is already experiencing the shortage of our grain", says Alla Stoyanova, director of the Department of Agricultural Policies at the WVA. 

  As for jobs, virtually all agricultural companies have kept their small staff and are still paying their wages. Some of them have even recruited extra personnel for seasonal work. "The harvest of vegetables and the planting of cabbage will take time, and we need workers, so we increased the number of employees up to 135", says head of the company Dmytro Matulyak.