Farmers in Ukraine came to a standstill, fueling fears of global food shortages

© . FILE PHOTO: A farm worker applies fertilizer to a winter wheat field near the village of Husachivka in the Kiev region, Ukraine, April 17, 2020. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko/File photo by Maurice Tamman, David Gauthier-Villars, Sarah McFarlane and Sarah El Safty () – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatens millions of tiny spring sprouts that should emerge from dormant winter wheat stalks in the coming weeks. If the farmers can’t feed those crops quickly, there will be far fewer of the so-called seeders spraying, endangering a national wheat crop on which millions in the developing world depend. The wheat was planted last fall, which went into hibernation after a short growing period. Before the grain comes back to life, though, farmers usually spread fertilizer that encourages the tillers to grow off the main stems. Each stalk can have three or four runners, increasing the yield per wheat stalk exponentially. But Ukrainian farmers – who produced a record crop of grain last year – say they are now short of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. And even if they had enough of those materials, they won’t be able to get enough fuel to power their equipment, they add. Elena Neroba, a Kiev-based business development manager at grain brokerage Maxigrain, said winter wheat yields in Ukraine could drop by 15% compared to past years if fertilizers are not used now. Some farmers warn that the situation could be much worse. Some Ukrainian farmers told that their wheat yields could be halved, and perhaps more, with repercussions far beyond Ukraine. Countries like Lebanon, Egypt, Yemen and others have become dependent on Ukrainian wheat in recent years. The war has already caused wheat prices to skyrocket – up 50% in the past month. Ukraine’s agricultural crisis comes as food prices around the world have been rising for months amid global supply chain problems attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. World food prices hit a record high in February, rising more than 24% in a year, the UN food agency said last week. Agriculture ministers from the world’s seven largest advanced economies attended a virtual meeting on Friday to discuss the impact of the Russian invasion on global food security and how best to stabilize food markets. International food and feed prices could rise by up to 20% as a result of the conflict in Ukraine, which would cause a jump in global malnutrition, the United Nations food agency said Friday. Ukraine and Russia are major wheat exporters, together accounting for about a third of world exports, almost all of which pass through the Black Sea. Svein Tore Holsether, president of Norway-based Yara International (OTC:), the world’s largest producer of nitrogen-based fertilizers, said he is concerned that tens of millions of people will face food shortages as a result of Ukraine’s agricultural crisis. “For me, it’s not about whether we get into a global food crisis,” he said. “It’s about how big the crisis will be.” Ukrainian officials say they are still hopeful that the country will have a relatively successful year. Much of that hope rests with farmers in the west of the country, who are thus far a long way from the shooting. But officials are taking measures to protect domestic supplies to ensure the Ukrainian population is fed, which could be another potential blow to export shipments. Agriculture Minister Roman Leshchenko said on Tuesday the country is banning the export of several commodities, including wheat. Leshchenko has acknowledged the threat to Ukraine’s food supply and that the government was doing everything possible to help farmers. “We understand that statewide food depends on what will be in the fields,” he said in televised comments Monday. Moscow says it is conducting a special military operation in Ukraine to demilitarize and capture dangerous nationalists. Despite documented attacks on hospitals, apartment buildings and railroads, it has denied intentionally targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure. Grain exports are a cornerstone of the Ukrainian economy. In the coming weeks, farmers should also start planting other crops, such as maize and sunflowers, but they are struggling to get the seeds they need, said Dykun Andriy, chairman of the Ukrainian Agriculture Council, which represents about 1,000 farmers covering five million hectares. renovate. † Andriy warned that fuel is now the critical issue. Unless farmers can get diesel to power their machinery, spring farming will be impossible and this year’s crops doomed. “Farmers are desperate,” he said. “There’s a big risk that we won’t have enough food to feed our people.” Maxigrain’s Neroba said farmers are facing fuel shortages because military needs are a priority. Ukrainian farmer Oleksandr Chumak said little work is happening in his fields, some 200 km north of the Black Sea port city of Odessa. He farms 3,000 hectares (about 7,500 acres) where he grows wheat, maize, sunflowers and canola. Even if he had enough fuel to get his equipment to the fields, he said he didn’t have enough fertilizer for all of his crops and no herbicides. “Usually we have maybe six to seven tons of (wheat) per hectare. This year, I think if we get to three tons per hectare, it will be very good,” Chumak said, adding that he remains hopeful that Ukrainian farmers will find a way to grow enough food to feed their compatriots, but he doesn’t expect much to be exported.In northern Ukraine, he said friends of his have been reduced to skimming fuel from a ditch filled with diesel after a Russian attack on a train spilled fuel from several tankers. Other friends, in the occupied territories near Kherson, are clearing diesel from ambushed and abandoned Russian tanker convoys, Chumak said, and currently spend much of his time preparing for a Russian attack. “I live in Odessa. Every day I see rockets flying over my house.” Val Sigaev, a grain trader at RJ O’Brien in Kiev, who evacuated last week, said it is unclear how much of the usual spring farming – planting and fertilizing – would be possible, as high prices for fertilizers – a key input for fertilizer – drove fertilizer prices “Some people think we can plant as much as half of the harvest,” Sigaev said. “Others say only the West will see the planting and that what is produced will be solely for Ukrainian needs. The situation is especially dire in the southern port city of Kherson, the first Ukrainian city Russia conquered after the country’s invasion on February 24. The spring-like weather adds to the urgency of farmers if they don’t take care of their fields this year. harvest will be a failure Andrii Pastushenko is general manager of a 1,500-acre farm just west of the city, near the mouth of the River R ivier de Dnipro. Last fall they sowed about 1,000 hectares of wheat, barley and canola. His farm workers now have to get into those fields, but can’t, he says, and they no longer have access to fuel. “We are completely cut off from the civilized world and the rest of Ukraine.” In addition, many of Pastushenko’s 80 workers are unable to come and work on the farm because they live a few miles to the north, on the other side of the front line. The manager’s problems are compounded because the region is drier than other agricultural areas of need the land and its fields “If something falls from a helicopter, it can blow up the whole place,” he said. He fears that the harvest will be bad. Last year, his wheat and barley fields yielded about five tons per hectare. If he doesn’t spray insecticide — which he says he can’t get — and spread fertilizer, he doubts he’ll get a third of that amount. “I have no idea if we’ll be able to harvest anything,” he said. get off the ground, but it won’t be enough to feed our cats and pay our staff.” About 150 km west of Pastushenko’s farm is the Black Sea port city of Odessa, which remains under Ukrainian control. In peacetime, much of Ukraine’s agricultural exports find their way to ships in the port, the busiest in Ukraine. under siege by Russian troops. Much of Ukraine’s crop would be exported to North Africa, the Middle East and the Levant. According to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), Ukraine supplies Lebanon with more than half of its wheat imports, Tunisia imports 42% and Yemen nearly a quarter. Ukraine has become the largest food supplier to the WFP. For some countries, rising prices could kill governments and consumers alike due to state food subsidies. Egypt, which has become increasingly dependent on Ukrainian and Russian wheat, has been heavily subsidized for bread for the population over the past decade. As the price of wheat rises, the government will also come under pressure to raise bread prices, said Sikandra Kurdi, a Du Bai-based research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute. The country’s food subsidy program currently costs the government about $5.5 billion a year. Currently, almost two-thirds of the population can buy five loaves of bread a day for 50 cents a month. Other developing countries with similar subsidies will also struggle with rising wheat prices. In 2019, protests against the price hikes of bread in Sudan contributed to the overthrow of the head of state, Omar al-Bashir. For countries that provide large subsidies, rising food prices will mean governments taking on more debt or consumers paying higher prices, Kurdi said. (This story will be re-archived to add all bylines at the top of the story)

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