News from Ukraine

This is a dynamic situation, with changes occurring every day.

This report will be somewhat different, as it will be written as the month of March progresses, and so, items towards the end, may be conflicting or counteracting within statements made earlier. That is how events unfurl at this time.

Under extreme difficulties, Ukrainian farmers are attempting to carry on.

The country expects, and if things don’t deteriorate further, to produce 28 million tonnes of wheat this year, down from 32 million last year.

But, pundits say in reality, only half of expected yield will be harvested.

That would be enough for domestic needs, but nothing for the Middle East and Africa, which are reliant on its exports.

There are eleven containers of grain trapped in Odessa at the time of writing, and the port is being attacked.

Farm workers are deemed so valuable to keep food supplies going, that they are spared from front line duties.

Diesel is being diverted for military use, making farm work more difficult. Herbicides, mostly from China, are in short supply, as is fertiliser, which is primarily from Russia and Belarus.

Farmers must begin to sow maize and sunflowers by April. Appeals are being made to Western countries to send diesel.

Dairy farmers in Russian occupied areas are having difficulties milking the cows and feeding the animals. No milk processing plant is working and milk is being given away free.

Nearly 50 countries depend on Ukraine and Russia for at least 30% of their wheat and of these, 26 source over 50% of their needs from these two countries.

Finland gets 80% and Pakistan 60% of their needs for them.

Wheat is a staple food for over 35% of the world’s population. Prior to the conflict, FAO expected Ukraine to export 6 million tonnes of wheat, and some 14 million tonnes of maize, making it the world’s third largest maize exporter.

The Ukraine government has banned the export of rye, barley, buckwheat, millet, sugar, salt and livestock until the end of the year.

Ukraine supplies the EU with just under 60% of its maize requirements. The FAO have put food price at 3.9% increase in February, 2022, and 24.1% higher than a year ago.

Which producer has received that much increase in what they receive for their commodity?

There are reports of Russian soldiers invading farms and carrying off pigs poultry and eggs in large numbers.

Because of the effects of the invasion on infrastructure, it is difficult to get feed to some egg production units. Production is rumoured to be one sixth down already, and thousands of layers are being slaughtered for lack of feed.

The Ukrainian Agriculture Minister has resigned, citing health reasons for his decision. Before he went, he indicated that only 7 million hectares of spring crops would be sown, against 15 million quoted before the invasion. 6.5 million hectares of winter wheat were sown, but only about 4 million are likely to be harvested because of war zones.

Ukraine initially planned to export 25.3 million tonnes of wheat, and 40 million tonnes of maize before the invasion. Now, only 18.3 million tonnes of grain is likely to be exported, including 200,000 tonnes between March and June.

The very latest information, put out by the new Agriculture Minister, reports that 150,000 hectares of mixed spring crops (maize, soybeans, sunflower, millet, buckwheat, oats and sugar beet) have been sown.

He expected maize and sunflower plantings to be less than usual, but oats, peas and barley to increase.

The government are considering cancelling the export limits for maize and sunflower oil, as stocks are high.

The export position for grains is deteriorating daily. Normally, 4-5 million tonnes per month would be exported, but this has fallen to a few hundred - thousand.

We have our production woes in the UK. Compared to the stresses being experienced in Ukraine, we still have much to be grateful for.


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